You probably wouldn’t trust me as much if you knew I was a murderer. Well, I am. I want to tell you about the day I killed Joe, nobody else knows about this, but it’s been haunting me for years.
Let me tell you about Joe. He was in his mid-forties, a musician. He had a pompadour hairstyle and wore fancy black and white shoes. He was married to a red haired lady that sang with him. He was a little heavy set, but carried it well. He sang all over the region in West Texas where I am from. He played a rock-a-billy style of music on his guitar, so I killed him. I did it for Jesus.
This was a while back so let me remember it for you. We had packed into a van and driven thirty miles to the small town where I was born. The night was hot and sticky. On the edge of town was a little church. I was wearing a long sleeve white shirt with a tie and dark slacks. I had the right hair style and a clean shave. My Bible was worn and well read, tucked under my arm. I strode in and surveyed the crowd, mentally separating the sheep from the goats. Looking at the girls, judging their worth by their hair and how tight their skirts were or if they were wearing pants. I looked for the pastor of the church, to see if he was still towing the line and making his people live right. I measured the environment, figured the balance in our favor and found a spot on the front row.
Joe came onstage, my eyes narrowed, he took his guitar and sat down. He had a smile on his face as he closed his eyes and prayed. He looked like Elvis, an older Hispanic Elvis, and then he started playing. They sang and the music was a desecration to the temple. It was rock and roll, it was unholy. The people around me clapped and stomped their feet while some danced and shouted. I felt the dark judgment of God come over me. I knew this was a blight on the Holy Bride. I slowly crossed my arms across my chest and glared at Joe, Joe-Elvis, Joe-Unclean-Rock-and-Roll, Joe-Leading-Us-Down-The-Wrong-Road, Joe-Desecrator-Of-The-Holy-Bride, and sat down, right on the front row. I sat there and glared at him and prayed against him. I hated him for Jesus.
After the service Joe came over to me. I was trying to leave before anything happened. I needed to plan and come up with a way to stop him before he infected the youth with his worldliness. He stopped me, smiling, sly in his pretending-not-to-know-what-the-problem-was way. His pompadour bobbed slightly, his eyes shining with excitement and his voice deep and bassy, resonant, strong, clear. He asked me, “Hey, man, I noticed you were sitting through the music, you looked upset. Was something wrong?”
I looked him over, this traitor, and I killed him, right there in the vestibule of the church. I took one step back and with hissing, clipped words, looking him in the eye, I wanted him to feel the impact, wanted him to know how disgusted I was for God, how I rejected his worship for God and how his music was unacceptable by me for God. I pointed my finger at him and shot him right through the heart.
“Your music is of the devil. You don’t worship or lead worship. How dare you bring that garbage into the sanctuary and expose our youth to that worldliness.” I didn’t say it, but I wanted him to know that I hated him for Jesus.
He staggered back, struck by the awful words, the terrible accusations, and the vicious attack on his one gift to God. He died right there. I saw his soul fall over and convulse a couple of times on the floor before it died in a pool of blood. I turned around and walked away, he stood there and I think he was crying. Good, that’s what sinners are supposed to do when they are met by one of God’s holy people.
I’ve killed a lot of people since then, people who didn’t talk right, people who didn’t dress right, people who knew too little, people who knew too much, people who were too poor and people who were too rich. I once tried to kill a whole youth group in Illinois, but their rebel youth pastor got in the way. I hooked up with other holy people over the years that were like me, but we couldn’t connect for long because they always went wrong, they said it was me, but I knew better.
Then one day, I met Jesus, face to face. He was following me around while I was trying to set up a sound system so I could preach to people about the Kingdom. Since I had never really met Jesus I didn’t recognize him. He was about two and a half feet tall. He was barefoot, no shirt, dirty, so dirty, filthy even. He was crying, he had mucus smeared across his face. He was black. He was a little dirty barefoot black kid, with a dirty pamper, crying, reaching for my hand, getting in the way. He was making me miserable. I didn’t have time for Jesus, I needed to set up the sound equipment so I could teach people about the King and about being holy.
I looked around, annoyed. I saw Jesus’ sister standing nearby and asked her, “What does he want? Why does he keep following me, why is he crying?”
She looked at me and said, “Mister, he just wants to hold your hand.”
The scales fell from my eyes. I wasn’t struck blind, I had been blind. I took Jesus by the hand, picked him up, the dirty little black Jesus, his feet smeared grime on my clean white shirt. His tears and mucus stained my collar. He wrapped his arms around my neck and laid his head on my shoulder and he became still and quiet, except for the little shuddering breaths that kids do after they’ve been crying.
I never knew Jesus was a little black boy before that day, but since then I have met Jesus a lot. He was a scared Hispanic man in a jail cell, I prayed with Him. He was an elderly lady in a nursing community that held hands with me and some teenagers in Odessa, Texas as we sang choruses on a Saturday morning. I bought Him lunch with Darrin Jansen’s money at the Fishery. He thought I was Italian, but I bought Him a fish sandwich because He was hungry. He was a lonely runaway girl sitting outside of a coffee shop. I talked to Him and bought Him a sandwich. He almost cried when I gave Him a bowl of soup on a bench in front of a big Ladies’ Conference in downtown Louisville. All of the holy people were walking back and forth in front of Him, but nobody recognized Him because He was a homeless black man with a messed up eye, but He was hungry so I bought him some soup.
He taught me that it was wrong to “hate for Him.” I left my sword with Him, I left my badge (it was a fake) with Him. I walked away and could see Jesus everywhere. Grace and Mercy follow me and go before me.
I never saw Joe after the day I killed him in the church vestibule, he has since passed away.
I’m sorry, Joe.
I wish you could forgive me for the day I hated you and killed you for Jesus.
I’m sorry, Joe, but it won’t happen again. I’ve cried about it. That’s good, that’s what sinners are supposed to do when they are met by one of God’s holy people.
2009. Armando Heredia
Armando serves as co-pastor of Tapestry in Granite City, IL and is an artist and author.