Hey! I am Jake. I started Fireproof Ministries with Craig back in 1998. We have known each other since I was in 7th grade. I speak on behalf of the ministry several times a year and I write on the pastors blog. I spoke at a church in Chandler, Arizona last weekend. I was asked to share a message the day before to a group of sex offenders in prison. I called Craig a few days before and asked him what do I say to this group? I know XXXchurch has done outreach before in prison but I had never done this. Over the next couple of days I will be sharing this experience.
Do some of the most hated people in the world deserve the encouragement of God’s grace? As I walked into the Florence Jail and headed to speak to the Sex Offenders yard I was excited, as strange at that sounds. I was excited to step into a maximum security prison and come face to face with people who have made mistakes that will forever separate them from society. They are the outcasts. The sins of these men will bring even the most compassionate person to experience emotions contrary to their life.
How do you love the unlovely? Before walking into this prison the unlovely were military terrorists, bully’s, homeless, etc – today that changed. As the men flooded the room I was approached by a man who had heard of the ministry of XXXchurch. He was extremely pleasant and would be a great Barista at Starbucks. He was kind, encouraging, and appeared passionate about helping people. What I experienced was the exact opposite of his victims. 147 men attended church last night and I personally spoke with more than 50 of the men. Some shared their stories, some needed prayer, some wept, some asked questions about the ministry, and some verbally reminded me of their “label” in society.
I struggled when I thought of my kids. How would I approach and love a man who harmed my children? One man told me his victim was his 10 year old daughter who is now 13 years old. He cried. I felt compassion.
Should I have felt compassion? Should I have felt a bond? Should I have wanted to help, to love, to listen, and to ensure them of the grace of Jesus?
The tension is thick. The grace of Jesus is messy.
In no way does the grace of Jesus dismiss consequences and yet at the same time it sees past the sin to the person. One man appeared to be a boy. He must not have been older than 18 years old and yet he found himself there, labeled for life. I pray that Jesus will be enough for this young man. I pray that he will find his way and spend the rest of his life bettering society. The reality is, many of these men will be released and the cycle will start over again.
Sit with the tension for a minute – God’s grace is significant in the middle of disgusting sin. How do you show God’s grace when it is acceptable and encouraged by the world to hate and wish harm?