“And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.’”
1 Samuel 8:8, ESV
Imagine this missionary assignment: a small town in the middle of nowhere. Whiskey flows freely, and gambling and prostitution are rampant. The legal system is corrupt, violence is common and most people die before age 40, many from violent deaths. It is a town that has rejected God.
William Carpenter ministered in this kind of town. His unreached people group included miners, ranchers and prostitutes. Little is known about this Baptist minister who died in 1881 from nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. In fact, all I managed to find about him traces to the same source — Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona.
Carpenter is buried alongside many of Tombstone’s famous residents, including Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury, who were killed by the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday in the infamous Shootout at the O.K. Corral. Carpenter died the year of the shootout.
1881 was a volatile year in Tombstone, and gravestones in Boot Hill tell a story of the hardships. Murders, stabbings, illnesses and mining accidents took the lives of residents at much too young an age.
As I walked through the O.K. Corral and read the histories of the town, I realized not much has changed. Sure, technology, transportation and communication have evolved. We can now jet around the globe in a matter of hours and chat face-to-face over a wireless network from the most remote locations.
But at our core, human beings are no different than we’ve ever been. Put a whiskey bottle, a deck of cards and a scantily clad woman in front of a bunch of men and you’ll be sure to draw a crowd — and soon someone will get hurt.
The walk through Tombstone reminded me of this: We are all dirty, rotten scoundrels in need of a Savior.
That’s why, in Old Testament times, God sent prophets like Samuel to call His people to live differently. That’s why He sent a little known minister like William Carpenter to Tombstone. That’s why He sends men and women today to hard places where whiskey flows freely, gambling and prostitution are rampant and the legal systems are corrupt — because we are dirty, rotten scoundrels in need of a Savior.
Most importantly, that’s why He sent Jesus — because God is worthy of our worship and we are too messed up in our depravity to notice. We are broken, messed up sinners, but God loved us enough to die for us, to heal the rift between us and to reconcile us to Him.
Yes, we are all dirty, rotten scoundrels. The Good News is we have a Savior, and His name is Jesus.
This week’s reading: 1 Samuel 4-24, Psalm 7, 11, 27, 31, 34, 52, 59
Post #15: Discovering how to live missionally through a chronological reading of God’s Word.