Last night I experienced a true first–I was at a party that got broken up by the police. And of all the people hosting it, it was a party put on by seminary students! Now before you lose all hope in the future ministers of America, let me explain what happened, because it’s not nearly as scandalous as it sounds.
Some of my friends hosted a birthday party at their house for another student, and a ton of my friends were there so it was kind of an elaborate affair. We all got super dressed up, and one of our friends is a DJ, so he provided us with music. Prior to the party, the hosts went outside to make sure the music wouldn’t disturb the neighbors, so while it was quite the birthday bash, it was also very tame–some people danced, but most people just sat around and talked.
Well as the night progressed, the party seemed to be winding down, but I suddenly noticed three policemen walk in the back door. Simultaneously, three other policemen walked in the front. They yanked the plug on the music, pointed flashlights in our eyes, and started giving us the third degree. They warned us that if anyone was drinking underage, or if drugs were present, that we’d all be done for.
We tried to assure them that they’d find neither activity transpiring there, but they didn’t believe us. They got in our faces, treated us like we were already guilty for whatever crimes they assumed we were committing, and didn’t let up. It was actually kind of scary.
As it became increasingly clear that we had done nothing wrong (even the decibel level of the music was not enough for them to write us up), the cops got more desperate. One of them picked up a piece of grass off the floor that someone tracked in with their shoes, and asked us what it was. “Grass, officer?”
Another cop confiscated my friend’s driver’s license, and when he discovered that my friend is required to drive with glasses due to poor vision, be began grilling him about where his glasses were. My friend was wearing contacts.
After awhile, the interrogating became somewhat ridiculous, and we were all getting very annoyed. We hadn’t done anything wrong, but were being treated like criminals.
Eventually the cops ran out of ideas so they left. As soon as they walked out the door, we all burst out laughing–of all the parties to be broken up by the cops, a party of seminary students? We didn’t know whether to laugh it off or feel ashamed.
But the more I reflect on this whole experience, the more I am struck by how perplexed these policemen were. They came into the party expecting to find very specific crimes–they even told our hosts that they were sure to find drugs since “partying and drugs generally go together.” They had no category for us Christians. Clearly the idea of a bunch of twenty-somethings getting together to have fun on a weekend, without the use of drugs or excessive drinking, was beyond their capacity to except. That’s why they KEPT asking us questions and grew increasingly frustrated–we didn’t make sense to them.
No one ever told the cops that we were Christians, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing given how much they seemed to think we were utterly depraved individuals. But I kind of wish we had told them we were believers, because I don’t think they left that house thinking we were bad people. I think that, even if their pride wouldn’t have let them admit it, the policemen knew that they’d jumped the gun on us. They knew they had overreacted. The bullying was merely a mechanism for covering up their embarrassment at treating innocent people so horribly.
But the reason I wish we had told them we were Christians is that this experience reminds me of a specific verse in Scripture. 1 Peter 2:12 reads, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
This verse reminds us of two things. One, people need to know that we’re Christians. If we looks different, but people don’t know why, then we don’t accomplish very much. We therefore need to be open about our faith, and that’s why I wish we had told the cops we were Christians.
But the second thing this verse reminds us is that we should stand out in exceptional ways. We should have gone the extra mile with those policemen, rather than merely defending our innocence. We should have apologized to them if we had done anything wrong, been perfectly compliant, and exceedingly kind. Instead, we largely got defensive. By the time the cops left, we were all pretty ticked off, and it showed.
But as this verse implies, it’s not enough to be innocent of what people may accuse us. Defending ourselves and demanding that we be treated fairly is not an effective means of conveying the Gospel, because even non-Christians do that when they are falsely accused. What non-Christians DON’T do is fall on their swords and love their accuser anyway. We must therefore go beyond innocence, adding to it the practices of unconditional love and good deeds. In this way, Christians will not merely be known as the people who follow the rules, but as the people who love in such a way that is not only disarming, but wonderful.
I’ll keep that in mind the next time I’m at a party that gets busted by the cops. 🙂