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Not that long ago I wrote a blog about what I called “Jonah Christians,” believers who feel that certain types of people should not be given a second chance even by God Himself, much the way that Jonah felt about the hated Assyrians.  This time I want to zero in on a specific group that many professing Christians are uptight about:  Those with records; that is, criminal records, be they felonies or misdemeanors, violent or nonviolent, and especially those with sexual offenses.  After all, one aspect of our ministry is to help such people, and we ourselves have had firsthand experience with unkind treatment by churches.


Let me be clear: I am not advocating for preferential treatment of those who have been in trouble with the law.  No one group should be elevated above another in importance (James 2:1-13).  At the same time, that applies for everyone.  Often those with criminal records are marginalized even by believers once they are found out.  Now, victims’ rights are important.  Those who have been victimized by criminals certainly deserve compassion and protection.  But here is the other side of the coin—victims’ rights have been addressed for years now.  Government, society, and Christians alike have been on their side.  It is not hard for them to receive prayer.  However, how many times do the perpetrators get prayed for in church, especially  “those kind” (sex offenders)?


How many programs purportedly designed to help those in trouble have actually been more than mere window-dressing, a token gesture more to make the government look good and to make money off of offenders than to honestly help them overcome their problems?  Furthermore, who cares?  Apparently the Church doesn’t, especially when you hear the way a lot of “Christians” talk about those who have been in trouble.


Believers who are confronted about this issue are fond of pointing out that such imprisoned individuals in the Bible as Joseph, Peter, and Paul were innocent of wrongdoing.  They are correct on that point, but this evaluation alone does not go far enough.  Consider Jesus’s words here:


Matthew 25:34-40:  “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ”


There are not only Christians imprisoned by way of persecution, there are those also who get in trouble as  chastisement for a backslidden condition, and there are persons who get saved while in prison.  There are also falsely accused believers who are locked up.  The Lord’s love extends to sinners behind bars whom He desires to see saved, and also to those of His who are behind bars for whichever reason just stated.  In the passage above He did not make a distinction between the guilty and the innocent.  As a matter of fact, one of Christ’s earliest saved followers was a thief who had been crucified with Him.  This thief was guilty as charged!  See for yourself:


Luke 23:39-43:  Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said to Jesus, “Lord remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”


As I said earlier, we have personally experienced church rejection because of our records.  I was told by one church that I had been considering joining that I would have to sign a contract drawn up by an attorney stipulating what I could and could not do at church—after I had disclosed my past in an effort to be accountable!  The individual who was speaking went on to say that the church board would have to meet to decide if they even wanted me to be a member at this church.  At another church I was thinking about joining, the pastor was kind and welcoming to me until, in my efforts to be accountable, I disclosed my criminal past to him.  His demeanor changed and in an email told me that he and I would have to have a talk to take measures to protect me and everyone else.  Then he added, “Have a great weekend!”  He could not have insulted me worse if he had slapped me in the face.  Where is the redemption and the trust in Jesus’s ability to change people in this man’s words?


One more example: Back in the 2000’s a woman, a believer who worked to help convicted sex offenders coming out of prison, approached no less a figure in Christendom than the well-known Pastor Charles Stanley, only to hear him say (my paraphrase) that his church didn’t have a ministry for “those kind” of people; hence the phrase, “those kind.”  But Jesus loves “those kind”.  He loves those with felonies and misdemeanors, both those behind bars and those of us who have gotten out.  If you are a believer who has a problem with those who have a record, you need to repent.  You are not the judge.  God is the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, and He saves and helps those who sincerely come to Him—including those with records.  Including “those kind”.



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