Thursday, 4 June 2009

unGrace?

Can you sincerely share the Good News and the love of God with someone and yet disdainfully mention their sins/mistakes as if you're better than them?

I believe that when we truly love someone like Jesus does, and are trying to reflect who Jesus is to people, we should perhaps hold back on our judgements and see them for who they are.

So what if they're currently in prison serving a sentence for a crime they committed before they were introduced to Christ?

So what if they've sinned in some form or manner?

Do we say things like "they're scary, I wouldn't want them near me!"

How can you say you love them, when you really don't think they're worthy of your love? How can you care for them, and yet think yourself better than them?

How is that extending the grace of God to them?

We're all sinners in our own right. What we have to our advantage is the fact that we weren't caught or publicly punished. But we've still made mistakes.

If we expect God and others to treat us fair, shouldn't we at least do the same to others?

What do you think?

How will you treat someone who is currently serving a sentence in prison for a crime they committed before they knew Christ?

How will you treat them if they've served their sentence and are now wanting to meet you in person?

11 comments:

SallyO said...

Would you allow me, as a non-Christian, to comment on this?

For many years I visited prisoners serving life sentences. One of the interesting statistics I learnt is that the percentage who would describe themselves as “Christian” is far greater in prison than in the population as a whole. There are a number of reasons for this.

Some choose to become Christians because they’re lonely and frightened, some because it’s a ‘hobby’ which will give them something to help fill the time (go to Church services etc) and some (the largest group, I found) because it helps them convince the authorities of their remorse (the Parole Board etc). Of course, there are also those who would have described themselves as “Christian” before they committed their crime but presumably we’d have to question their understanding of the term.

I know this all sounds very cynical but actually I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I really do believe that there is inherent good in people. I stayed good friends with some of the prisoners I visited after they’d left prison – and they were all convicted murderers.

But be doubly careful if you want to form a friendly relationship with the person you’re talking about it. Follow all the rules that you’d follow if you were going on a blind date! Invite him/her to join a group of you. How much do you know about his/her background before the prison sentence?

Everyone needs friends and I think people deserve a second chance. Just take it carefully and slowly. Whatever you decide to do, good luck.

Melody said...

Hey Sally, thank you so much for your comment. You've certainly given me an insight into prisoners that I would not have had!

And yeah, I agree, trusting people just because they say they can be trusted may potentially be a formula for disaster. Treading cautiously should be the order of the day.

I just get frustrated when seeming Christians come across as being hypocritical by being caring to a person, but then sneering when their backs are metaphorically turned :P

Perseus said...

Surely it depends also on what they did. A rapist / pedophile? Surely it is to his victim that the care should be addressed to, not the perpetrator. Jesus may very well have embraced the rapist, and therein lies a flaw (in my mind) of Christian teaching. Too much focus on repentance, not enough care for the victims.

If a rape victim was not a Christian, and the rapist has become one, don't you find it socially (if not spiritually) wrong to offer the rapist open arms and love and support, just because he believes in God? And by extension, you are not helping the victim because she may happen to be not a Christian?

Then again, if he stole a watch from a jeweller to fund his unfortunate gambling addiction, then by all means, welcome him to the church.

Perseus said...

Oh, and further:

"How will you treat them if they've served their sentence and are now wanting to meet you in person?"

You have to feel safe, first and foremost. If you don't feel safe, don't offer anything. You should not put yourself in harm's way out of a duty to Christ.

Brian said...

I think mentioning the victims of the a is out of topic, as we are talking about people who are blatantly labelled or proven to be sinners in society's eyes, and whether we are showing them grace. It takes no strength of character to show grace to a victim, but it does to show the same to people who are ex-convicts.

Brian said...

Sorry meant victims of a crime.

SallyO said...

There seems to be an assumption that you can only help the perpetrator OR the victim of a crime, in other words that you have to take sides. You're not siding with the perpetrator by offering a friendly hand. I don't know Melody well but I'm quite sure that if I were the victim of a crime and needed help, she would give it to me (despite my atheism!).

My question would be is she offering a helping hand to an ex-prisoner because HE'S a Christian, or because SHE is?

Perseus said...

I disagree Brian. There's cause and effect.

It may very well show 'character' to show 'grace' to an ex-convict, but should that 'character' come at the expense of one's own safety, and the feelings of his victims?

It may make you a better Christian I suppose, but is that the be-all and end-all of human endeavour?

By offering support to a perpetrator of crime, you may run the risk of hurting his victims, and it does need to be taken into account.

And you do have to keep youself safe.

Even a rapist needs support after completing his sentence, but I think this should come from family, friend, psychologists and trained law officers / counsellors first of all (ie: those who are best qualified to ascertain if he is likely to re-offend), rather than let it fall upon the church to repatriate the man.

Melody said...

Sally - you can count on me whenever you need my help :)

I'll even promise not to give you a Bible. Hee hee.

SallyO said...

Oh good, because I already have 3.
The King James, New English and the Revised Standard. And not only that - but I've READ it. But if you've helped me when I really needed it, you can give me another if you think it will do any good!

kris said...

for a while i went to a church that had a high proportion of ex-cons. There was a convicted paedophile who would get up in front of church every month and declare "i am an ex-con. here are my sins...." He didn't have to do this. He did it so the community was always aware of his short comings and could help him in appropriate ways.

While i was there i got very close with a man and his wife. He had been in and out of jail since he was 12, some of those times for murder and assassination. When he finally decided to come to Christ, he says he had no more options. He knew God wanted him. He wasn't afraid of talking about his past and how God had changed him. He was an amazing man and i truly believe he was a changed man.

There were plenty of other ex-cons that were there that i didn't trust. I suppose i always just trusted my gut when meeting people. if i got the wrong vibe i wouldn't associate. I don't consider this wrong. I think God just knew who i was going to be able to deal with and who i wasn't.

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