On the Corner

by Robert Docter – 

Booth led boldly with his big bass drum…

That first line by Vachel Lindsey from his memorable poem, “General William Booth Enters Into Heaven,” threatens my faltering will and shakes my legs and arms to action.

The word boldly characterized Booth’s leadership, and I wondered about mine. Does there exist within me the strength and courage necessary to drive a ragtag group of people around the world in the cause of Christ? Do I have the perseverance and patience to deal with fatigue and failure while gripping firmly a goal from which I will not be deterred? Can I find ways to work through my disappointment and grief which impact every life and then continue to stir myself to action? Can I confront the fearful and faint of heart, the questioners and quitters, the lazy of mind and will, the slackers and sinners in such a way that they will feel inspired instead of judged, motivated instead of criticized, energized instead of enervated?

Am I willing to walk through life with a big bass drum with a big red shield emblazoned on its side–a tub thumper for God? Am I willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous judgmentalism. Those who lead boldly are forever called egotistical, are forever tarred as self-aggrandizing, are forever misunderstood by the lesser lights of our world who evidence the identical symptomology they whisper about those they criticize.

Those who lead boldly march in front. They advance into perilous vulnerability. They stick out above and in front of the crowd. They take the first hit.

I see that same boldness in Army leadership today.

(Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?)

That second line–a question directed squarely at me–haunts my heart and hovers near the center of my soul. The line, always in parentheses, echoes through the poem, a constant and personal reminder of what is required of us to make the saints smile gravely and say: “He’s come.”

(Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?)

Are my needs for respect and status so strong as to require me to ignore the drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale–the walking lepers and lurching bravoes–to abandon the unwashed legions with the ways of death?

Has my Army become overly respectable? Am I (are we) more interested in filling comfortable pews with people just like me (just like us) than in working to rescue the perishing–care for the dying? It takes courage to practice a strong social gospel. It takes boldness to lead to Christ those who differ from us. Why bother?

Jesus came from out the court-house door to separate the sheep, on his right, from the goats, on the left. He bestows his inheritance to those on the right. He also makes very clear the criteria for that judgment according to Matthew 25:34.

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.

I was a stranger and you invited me in.

I needed clothes and you clothed me.

I was sick and you looked after me.

I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him–“Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

“I tell you the truth,” he said, “Inasmuch as you did this for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”

This Army boldly leads the least to heaven. We seek to facilitate their “salvation” in every dimension of their existence–spiritual, physical, emotional, social, mental. They have never been measured in economic terms alone. They are the desperate, the addicted, the lonely, the disenfranchised, the hurt, helpless, hungry and homeless. These were Booth’s people, and they are ours.

(Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?)

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