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DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS ? (PART 1)
I am an inmate in the Tennessee Prison System. I have been here for eighteen years. I have four years left and will then be returning to society. I started my time when I was twenty years old. I will leave as a forty-one year old Christian man. I committed a crime and for the rest of my life I will regret all that I ever did that harmed people. My challenge for you is: can you say that I am a Christian just like you?
Can Jesus Christ change a prisoner’s life? Do you believe that Christ not only wishes to enter into a relationship with all people, but that he also wishes to and can transform everyone, no matter who they are or where they are? Were you a drug addict before you came to Christ? Were you addicted to porn? Did you have emotional problems that affected your every day life? Were you an alcoholic? Abusive? Did Christ transform that? If so, would you want to be treated for the rest of your life like the person you were before you found restoration and transformation in God?
The Gospels are a direct source for a blueprint of how Christ feels about the demonized, the oppressed, and the ostracized, and how he wishes to restore them to life and community. In the gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11-32, you will find a relevant parable that speaks of the plight of the incarcerated Christian at the hands of free, bitter, non-forgiving Christians.
In the parable there is a father (God), and two sons (representing society). The father represents a God who is universally God over our society as claimed by our Pledge of Allegiance, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Opportunity was given to both sons in the parable. One son squanders his opportunity, while the other capitalizes on his. The younger son began to be in want when he had no opportunities left, and so we can say he fell into a life of crime to supply the things that initially robbed him of his opportunities. In the parable it is said that the son wasted his life away with prostitutes and riotous living. The other son capitalized however and was able to enjoy the local community’s way of life and participate in society with other law-abiding citizens. He felt that he was at home under God due to his being a good, wholesome man.
The one son lives for a time in crime, in the dark recesses of the land. He finds himself so hungry for food (life) that he ends up willingly becoming enslaved by an oppressive system. We can say this is an analogy of a person who commits a crime and ends up in an oppressive prison system, enslaved, and trodden underfoot by that system. The other son stays at home and loses sight of the son who is now gone and enslaved, and could care less about that fact as long as the sun still shines in his/her life.
The son who is lost in prison (the pig-pen) wakes up one day, comes to his senses, and begins to think of the opportunities that he squandered. He hopes that he can come to God who forgives and restores, and then hopefully to a Christian society that would imitate that God.
The son repents and turns toward home. The parable says the father had been watching that road all the while, and when he sees him coming on the horizon, he takes off running to him. The son begins to lament all the horrible things he has done and tries to apologize, but the father only wants to receive him with love and forgiveness without blame or condemnation. The father then calls for the things the son needs to be restored to a healthy physical and emotional state. There are very few Christians out there who fit this profile in the parable.
The other son in the parable represents Christians who seek only retribution and who wish to oppress. He is the one who never left home, who never transgressed the laws of the land, who was comfortable under God and had all the benefits for being a good law-abiding son. We find him refusing to participate in the restoration of the criminal son. He was angry at this show of love and mercy. He hated the fact that the father was willing to receive him as if he had never left home and squandered his life up to that point, willing to remove that stigma.
With a passion for retribution he screams out to the father (God), “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” The father (God) responds, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
Are you like the son who despises the thought that God offers this kind of love and forgiveness to criminal offenders? Do you know that the Tennessee Legislature is filled with Christians who fit this description? Not only have they strayed from the teaching they have received in God’s house, but they also try to destroy God’s attempts to restore anyone else to His house. They are on a retributive campaign to keep the criminal son in slavery (in the pig pen, eating the food that pigs eat and living in refuse). Are YOU really a believer in the Gospel Message?