Keith Wishum: Wearing the right badge

Published 2:12 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018

It was clear. We weren’t going in.
Our church teens aren’t bad people — not a terrorist in the bunch. But we were not getting in without the right badge. We were on a tour of Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay where several Trident nuclear submarines are based. And we were standing only about 60 yards from a huge “boat house” where the 560 foot-long sub was docked. But we wouldn’t get to see it.
We had already cleared two checks. The van in which we were riding had been thoroughly inspected inside and out and underneath. Luggage had been opened. Every ID had been reviewed. We thought we had been cleared.
But we weren’t getting in. Security measures require that visitors’ names be on a list submitted prior to visiting so that background checks can be run. We hadn’t done that, and, though the guards were genuinely apologetic, we weren’t allowed in. We didn’t have the right badge.
The two men who were escorting us are stationed at the base and could have gone in. They have the proper badges. In fact, the difference was striking. While we had been having our van searched, other cars whisked through the gates, stopping just long enough to show a photo pass before guards waved them through. Having the badge made all the difference.
It does with God, too. Jesus told a parable about a wedding feast where all manner of surprising guests were seated. Outcasts, homeless, notorious sinners — they were all welcomed, all cleared. But one man did not have on the correct wedding clothes.
To that man, the master of the banquet (God) said, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).
Like those of us standing at the security gate at Kings Bay, he wasn’t inferior to others who were allowed in. He just didn’t have the badge. To enter heaven, one must be on the list. He must have the badge. The good news is that it’s available to all.
Those in the church in Galatia were reminded how they’d gotten their badge. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
If we wear that badge, all the gates swing open to admit us.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.