My family and I went to Net Church today. We were visiting there in order to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and having come only for the celebration I ended up leaving with whole new perspective.
They had a guest preacher, a man named Rob Joy, who message was based on the story of his life. He talked about the things he used to do, the person he used to be and how he eventually became a Christian.
It was a story of redemption, one you can hear often in the Christian circle; This man used to be very violent – beating people up, fighting etc so consequently, he had many run-ins with the law.
Going to court, spending time in jail and doing drugs became the heartbeat of his life, until one day, in his room alone, surrounded by all the elements that defined his life at the time, he searched for God and found him.
At times, when people tell their story, especially one like that, you hear the words but still don’t get the full impact of what they did but what he did today made an impact on me – he showed us his mug shots.
They were all there from the several times he had been arrested with all the dates they were taken, between 1996-2005. It may not seem like much – maybe scars or gunshot wounds would be more impressive – but seeing just those pictures made it so evident to me that this person, standing here, right in front of us, very eloquent and quite endearing with these little jokes, used to be a thug! A serious, hardcore, cross over to the other side of the road, thug. The kind you would see on the news and the whole community would fear and not want to cross.
He told of how at that time he had a weapons shed (yes, a shed, full of weapons) that he would go to, to pick out something to armour himself with to go out and fight. To look at him now you would never believe that he could have done those things. Here he was, totally changed, a family man (his boys are cute!), walking and talking about Jesus!
I have to admit that I have been guilty of judging. Not people like him now, but people who are in the position he used to be.
When I see the photos of criminals in the paper, I don’t always immediately feel compassion for them the way I should and the way Jesus would. I’d feel anger or disgust, at them for what they have done and I’d see them as a person to be left to rot. “No hope for you!” . There are sayings in the Christian community like: ‘David was an adulterer, Moses was a murderer, Noah was a drunk...’ trying to show us how even the people of the bible weren’t perfect and how anyone can be used by God. I’m not saying the can’t because they can! But sometimes by hearing it so often, you can become de-sensitise to the reality of what it means.
If we say we’re Christians and we truly look at Jesus, we’d see that he wasn’t like that. He had compassion and love for everyone no matter what they had done. He separated the person from what they had done. He would think that each one of those people, although they had done wrong, can turn their lives around and in the present day, Rob Joy was a true example of that.
Today my view changed. Those pictures were supposed to be used to relate to someone in a similar situation to his own, someone who thinks there is no way out of the life they’re living but instead, they were used to convict me of my own short-comings and I’m grateful.
Everyone is loved by God and no matter what they have done he is compassionate to forgive and give them a chance to change. I needed to be reminded of that and need to remind myself of that everyday.
His mum held on to that. She would pray for him everyday and even when he was at his worst, when people saw her, she would say the her son was a good man, a man for God. Now he is. Seeing those pictures today made it so real to me that he had actually done the things he said he had but what was also evident was the fact that this man was changed!
He is a funny, passionate, caring family man. Who knew he used to beat people up to a pulp and take drugs? All that is in the past. The bible says if you believe in God and accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you are a new creation, you’ve become a new person, old things have passed away and all things become new. He has already forgiven us, why not take up the offer?
Good thing of the day: A new perspective, a new compassion.