“But has all this work ever resulted in anything good?” someone asked once.
Well, besides the lives that he has influenced for the better, the young men who have learned a little self-discipline and gotten good jobs and become good citizens—and there were a few—besides that, we are worshipping with one of them right now. You should see the surprised looks when I mention that.
And here is the thing that might surprise you more. The larger problem when this happens is wondering how the brethren will receive such a one. In one place we lived, the church found out we might possibly have a newly released, and newly baptized, ex-convict among us and they were not happy at all. We heard comments ranging from, “I won’t ever allow myself to be alone with him,” to, “I don’t want him around my children.”
Reminds me a little of Acts 9:26: And when he was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Yes, a murderer had come into their midst and they didn’t want to have anything to do with him. In fact, this man had seen to the deaths of their very own friends and relatives. Their fear and loathing sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
But not to Barnabas. He took that man around and assured everyone that he had changed. Did he know him better than they? Not that I can tell from any reading I’ve ever found. He did not know Saul of Tarsus from Levi of Persepolis. What he did know was his Savior and the power of his gospel. For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes… Rom 1:16.
And the more our culture becomes like the culture of that time, the more likely that we will not be dealing with upstanding middle class nuclear families when we evangelize, but with people who come to us with immoral backgrounds, with addictions, and with criminal records. Or know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you… 1Cor 6:9-11.
And it will be up to us to show them that we truly believe the rest of that citation: but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
We talk a good fight when we talk about “God saving me, the sinner,” and how we don’t deserve our salvation and need the grace of God, “just like everyone else.” But too often there is an exception clause in our thinking. The Lord has made it perfectly clear through his brother James, murder equals adultery equals prejudice (James 2:8-11). The same law says they are all sin. None of us will be a step ahead of our brothers with convictions on their records when we stand before God. We have all been washed, sanctified and justified, and we will all be judged “as we judge others.”
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Jas 2:13