Tonight is the finale of the long running HBO series The Sopranos. Will Tony, the leader of the ungodly, canole loving crew from North Jersey, turn government witness? Will he die from “lead poisoning” and go down in a blaze of gangsta glory? Will he escape to find a new life in some safe suburb of Anywhere, USA?
I don’t know. I won’t know. I don’t get HBO.
All I know is this: it’s headlining my newspaper this morning. It’s dominated morning talk show chatter last week. People are talking about it at “the water/caffeine cooler” of Starbucks all across the nation.
How can a fictional family that deals in corruption, death and all around naughtiness capture the imaginations of so many Americans? I guess it’s a Godfather thing. There’s something about the machismo and swagger of those who think they are above the law that many, down deep inside, wish they could indulge in. Many Americans watch these imaginary hoodlums on television and live out their imaginary tough-guyness through these criminals.
…or whatever (I’m no stinkin’ psychotherapist)
I was raised not too far from a mafia infested part of town in North Denver. My mom used to go dancing with a guy who was, shall we say, connected. I remember her telling me how he could pick her up and lift her to the ceiling…with one hand.
I also remember her telling me a very scary story where she was driving through one of these neighborhood side streets and was suddenly cut off and pulled over by the cars of armed mafia men. They looked through her car and couldn’t find anyone hiding. Suddenly they spotted another car (same make, color and model of my mom’s car). They stood in the middle of the road with guns drawn and beat the guys teeth out with the end of their pistols. Mom was pinned in by the cars that pulled her over so she had to watch the whole thing. After they were done beating the guy they came back to my mom with guns still drawn and blood on some of their hands. Mom was not the type to get scared but she told me that she her heart was beating fast. She was now witness to a crime.
When they came up to her they said something like, “Sorry you had to see that”, got in their cars and drove away. She said they even seemed kind of courteous throughout the whole potentially deadly ordeal.
Personally, I never had good thoughts about the mafia growing up. To me they were just a bunch of bloodthirsty thugs who hid their corruption behind their mafia code and Catholic faith. It was okay to steal, kill and destroy (the same thing Satan does by the way) as long as you make it to Mass once in awhile. Their gangster code seemed stupid to me growing up and now. I never liked them because they gave Italian Americans (and Catholics for that matter) a bad name.
My uncle Bob reminds me a bit of Tony Soprano (although I’m sure my uncle could take Tony in a fist fight). He’s built about the same (although a little taller), could bench press 500 pounds, smoked cigars and was always looking for a fight.
He was radically transformed in the back of a police car decades ago. Outside the police car was the “corpse” of someone he had beaten so badly that their heart stopped. As a bouncer at the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill in the center of the city Bob had had encounters with all sorts of tough guys and knew how to “deal” with them. But this particular guy stabbed his best friend, Doug Johnson, five times in the parking lot. Bob ran out and found the thug hiding behind the bar. He knocked his head into the brick wall of the building and commenced to beating him senselessly. He beat him so badly that his heart stopped. When the cops and paramedics came my uncle was kicking a corpse.
After being cuffed and thrown in the back of the squad car my uncle snapped back to reality. He looked at the paramedics pumping the chest of this criminal. He realized that he was probably going to go to jail for a long, long time. In desperation he called out to God and said something like “God if they resuscitate that man I’ll serve you my whole life!”
They did…and he did. A year later he was at Florida Bible College where he met his future wife. Now he and his family are serving the Lord in St. Louis.
The story behind the story was my grandma had been praying for my uncle Bob to get serious about the Lord for years. Her prayers were answered in a violent, but effective way.
What’s my point? The same Jesus that saved my uncle Bob can save anyone, gangster and non-gangster alike, even a Tony Soprano caliber criminal. The same kind of prayers that moved the hand of God to transform the hearts of my family members can move the hand of God to transform the heart of anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Now I have a deal for you that you can’t refuse: How about sharing Jesus with the toughest, most unlikely people you know? How about praying for them everyday? How about watching Jesus do a work on them and transform them forever? The last thing you want is to see them sleeping with the fried fishes of the Lake of Fire forever.
We must remember that there’s hell to pay for everyone who refuses Jesus. Why? Because to God we’re all part of an organized crime family called humanity. Adam was the original Godfather of human criminality. With one bite he kicked off a mob war that is still raging to this day. Wars, death, famine, crime, sin, selfishness, everybit of the corruption we see in this world, all started when Adam became “a made man” in the kingdom of darkness.
So where’s the hope? The hope is that Jesus broke the power of the spiritual mob in one fell swoop on a cross 2,000 years ago. Our hope is that we know how our series finale ends (AKA “The Book of Revelation) when the King of kings makes everything right forever.
Talk about a great ending!
Between now and then the hope hovers between prayer and the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus can save anyone: Tony Soprano, Uncle Bob, even sterno bums like you and me.
Pray for the lost. Share the love of Jesus with everyone you meet. Don’t back off from witnessing to even the toughest of the tough guys. Their souls depend on it.