Often, one of the benefits of getting together on Sundays as believers is for the encouragement of one another. Today I was encouraged by the example of someone. He has no idea he did of course! I know a little of his story, not much, but I’ll tell you what I know.
Since I had no idea that I would write about him, I didn’t get his permission to tell this much of his story so we’ll just call him Jim. He has been worshipping at our church recently. He drives here from the Dallas area where he is attending seminary. Tonight he will be going to church in a town a little west of here where he has been spiritually mentored since he got out of prison a few years ago. The pastor there took him into his home and has helped him through many of the difficulties of life after prison. Have you ever thought about what they entail?
HOW DOES HE FIND A JOB?
One of the largest obstacles is getting a job!…to make an honest living. You have to reveal that you have been in prison. If you don’t and it is discovered, you lose your job just for lying on the application. (not an option for a christian anyway, especially one who is developing new life habits.) In the last month, his car was hit in an accident that wasn’t his fault. It did quite a bit of damage to his car…that he needs to get to classes and a job.
That same week he got a job (miracle!) and thought he had a ride coming to pick him up from said job. No one showed so he had to get a taxi to go 5 miles to the train. The charge was $30–1/2 his pay for the day! As it turned out, he was unable to keep that job because he couldn’t get a needed certification to do a part of the job because of his history. As he told the story (in front of a student in a home for delinquents “with many issues” (to describe it briefly), there was no hint of “poor me” or “God has deserted me” or even “I have had an horrible week!” He was discussing it in answer to some specific questions (or it might never have come up). The context of his answer was, “I know God will provide for me, and He has so far, I just don’t know how.” (Yes, God is making him into a man of faith…among other things!)
Is it any wonder that many of our prisoners are repeat offenders? Of course it isn’t right, but what are they supposed to do? Where can they get to work? What does a person do who does not have Christ to help him/her? Or is not part of a local Body of believers for encouragement and building up in the faith?
THIS IS NOT SIMPLY AN ISSUE OF “THE POOR”
I work with a woman whose son has been in jail; am neighbor to another whose grandson is now in prison; our community is “struggling” over the issue of whether to rebuild the local jail (which is in atrocious shape!) No one wants to spend the money to provide a decent place for these people who apparently don’t “deserve it”. This, in a community that is blatantly “pro-life”! I guess maybe we don’t believe everyone really IS created in GOD’s image when it comes down to it!
This is no longer a problem of the poor…although many of their families are now. People in all classes are affected by the problem of prison. It is no longer a problem that is resolved simply by saying, “They should have obeyed the Law.”
HOW DO WE SHOW GOD’S GRACE TO THESE OFFENDERS?
Yes, of course they should have. I’m sure the screaming in their heads from the Accuser (Satan) is an all too present reality. Isn’t that voice inside your head? I know it is in mine. How many times do I know the right thing to do and don’t do it? Way too often! More often than I like to admit. It is certainly the experience of Paul in Romans 7.
That is where the Grace of God comes into the picture! If we were painting a picture and it was dark and bleak, His grace showing up would look like the brilliant light shining in a dark place. (See Ephesians 5:8-9)
Another way we can see it described is in Colossians 2:13-14 where it describes what Christ did as taking a dead person (in sin) and bringing that person to LIFE!
Talk about drama! I realize that neither of these passages specifically mentions “grace” but each is talking about the work Christ did when He saved us and a huge part of that work involves a work of grace that He does in our lives in the sense that we do nothing to deserve it! But back to my point.
HOW DO WE INCARNATE CHRIST’S LOVE TO THE NEEDY AROUND US?
So how does this translate to social issues? like the poor? the imprisoned? the helpless? Imagine where we would be if He hadn’t reached out in grace to us. When I think of what He put aside for me in coming to earth…with no debt on my part! From a totally pragmatic perspective, I need to be showing the same grace to others, even some that I may not be naturally drawn to.
How do you think this translates into ministries of mercy as we reach out to a lost and hurting world?
photo credit: photobucket-usedtalent12
this was written about a year ago.