A Good Testimony
BY PASTOR TONY REA | AUGUST 17, 2020
I Can (series)
The evening I graduated from the Detroit Police Academy, I received my assignment to the 13th Precinct—uniformed patrol, midnight shift. My first day on the job I walked into the precinct lobby and was re-routed to the upstairs rollcall room. As I entered the room, a small group of police officers had already gathered for pre-shift briefing. One of the officers saw me, whispered something, and everyone in the group begin to laugh. I brushed it off at the time, pretty much ignored the guys, and chose not to react one way or the other.
The same behavior was repeated the very next day. On this second occasion, in a non-threatening way, I asked the officer, “Something funny?”
He responded lightheartedly and said, “I nicknamed you Gumshoe.”
I had never heard the term before and didn’t know it was slang for a police detective—a bumbling, awkward type like Columbo. So I asked, “Why is that?”
And he simply said, “Because you look like you’re walking on gum.” At that comment the whole group broke out into laughter.
From that time on, I was Gumshoe. This particular police officer, I’ll call him JP, called me Gumshoe for 10 years. I did not take offense to his little nickname and never asked him to stop calling me that. After a while, each time he greeted me as Gumshoe, it made me smile. Within a relatively short period of time, we developed a pretty close, working relationship. We never manned a scout car as partners, but we were assigned to several special projects and worked well together. I never saw him socially, or hung out with him outside of the precinct, but I would consider JP a good friend. Over the years we gained a mutual respect for one another; looking back, I have nothing but fond memories.
JP was a follower, not a leader. As such, he didn’t make many waves. He loved the approval of his peers and, for the most part, chose to go along with the program. JP was pretty much friends with everyone and had a gregarious personality. If he had an opinion that might be contrary to the group, he usually didn’t expound, he simply kept it to himself. When the subject of God or the Bible came up, I noticed if we were alone, JP responded in an attentive way; however, in the company of others, he acted as though he didn’t want anything to do with religion.
In 1984 I resigned from the police department and went into full time student ministry. I didn’t see or hear from JP for 25 years. But then, out of the blue, in the spring of 2009, JP stopped by CCC to visit with me. I was surprised to see him and asked him how he found me and how he knew I pastored CCC. He said, “Come on, Gumshoe, I’m a cop, remember?” I laughed.
JP told me his wife had cancer and was receiving treatment at Troy Beaumont Hospital. Three times a week, he would drive by CCC on his way to the hospital to visit with her, and one day he said he just felt prompted to come in and talk with me.
We took a quick tour of the building, and when we walked into the phase two sanctuary, I could tell JP was moved by God’s presence. He became emotional and told me he respected the Christian example I displayed during my police days. He said he wished he could have had the same courage and boldness when it came to faith. He confessed that he believed in Jesus but didn’t want anyone else to know it; he just couldn’t handle the rejection.
I told him I completely understood, and more importantly God understood. Then I told JP that God loved him. After that we prayed together. I prayed for his wife, and I prayed for JP. A few short months later, I heard JP passed away suddenly. I was saddened by the news; JP was one of the good guys!
Now, let me offer a little bit of encouragement to those of you who faithfully stand your ground as a Christ follower in the marketplace, your neighborhood, your school, and among your family members and friends. People are watching you, and people need what you have to offer. They may not say a single word to you about your faith, they may reject your beliefs, and they may even treat you harshly or give you a difficult time. However, God is glorified through you, and you become a powerful witness for the gospel message when you choose to express mercy to others and live your life in obedience to His Word. Keep up the good work; I am extremely proud of you!
2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (The Message)
Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ Himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
it will not return to me empty (void),
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech . . .
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes . . .