The Bare Soul - January 13, 2008
Community of Character(s)

Recently, I was out running some errands. Well, actually I was out driving around, doing some errands. I decided to cut through downtown Lee's Summit where I live. Lee's Summit Missouri has a rich and colorful past reaching back to post-Civil War days. Today, it boasts a bright future as a city that attracts good, wholesome families. As I drove up 3rd Street, I noticed banners on the light posts that read, "Lee's Summit - Community of Character". I chuckled to myself thinking, yes, it was definitely a community of character but it was also a community of characters!

Every community has its share of famous and infamous personalities. One of our more illustrious and infamous families to make Lee's Summit their home was the Younger Family. Settling here in the 1860s, the Younger boys quickly rose to fame first with Cole's association with Quantrill and his raiders and then later when they rode with Jesse and Frank James. Cole outlived his outlaw days (see photo below of his mug shot after the Northfield raid) and died an old man here in Lee's Summit in 1916. In August of 1913, the New York Times reports in his obituary that he got "religion" at a revival. Local historians attest to the changed man that Cole became as he gave his life to the Lord. His family's grave plot is about a mile from my house in the old historic cemetery. I have stood over Cole's grave and thought that one day I would very much like to meet this historic Lee's Summit "character" in the glory beyond.

As I stated, every community has its cast of characters that have gone on to create the character of their respective locale.  You could probably name a few yourselves that have shaped the destiny of your particular area. However, no where is a rogues row more profound than in the Bible. The cast of nefarious characters not only made up the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ, but those that came after our Lord also were not of the pious and saintly air that we might think when considering "godly" folks. Let's look at just a few: Noah was a drunk (Genesis 9:21), Moses was a murderer (Exodus 2:12), Samson was a womanizer (Judges 16:4), David was an adulterer (II Samuel 11:3-4), Jonah was a coward (Jonah 1:3), and Peter was a traitor (Matthew 26:70). Not to mention how Saul would have made a Spanish Inquistioner blush as he ravaged the early church, exterminating believers with a vengeance born from hell (Acts 9:1-2). And yet, God took these flawed bunch of characters and used them for His glory.

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet stated that God was "astonished" to find no one on earth to intercede for His people, so His own arm brought salvation (Isa. 59:16). In truth, there was no "perfect" man so God the Father sent His son to earth several hundred years later to redeem humankind. Jesus was the only true and perfect representation of what God had intended when he created the "character" of man. The amazing and wonderful truth is that it took Jesus' perfect character to redeem and restore the true character of the human race.

It seems incredibly ironic to me that it takes a bunch of redeemed characters to create a community of character. I believe that Lee's Summit just like hundreds and thousands of communities were founded by God-fearing folks that were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, yet God took these individuals and created a community that has its roots in love of family, God, and nation. As "characters" within our respective communities, it is our responsibility to uphold and deepen that rich heritage -- by being involved in our neighborhoods, by supporting our elected officials, and most importantly, to pray for the spiritual wellness and revival of our churches so that we might reach the lost. God will never be able to find "perfect" characters to complete his work. (God knows, that this recovering alcoholic, barefoot running lover of Jesus is far from perfect!) However, he will find characters who have been transformed by His holy power who will likewise transform their communities around them. That, is all He really asks and requires of any of us.

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