Sunday, June 11, 2017

The gospel is for everyone
Photo from The Gospel for Believers
What strikes me today as I read Ephesians 3:1-13 is that the gospel is for everybody.  In this passage Paul spends a lot of time alluding to the fact that God created the Jewish nation to be His people, but Jesus came to save everybody.  Those who are the knowledgeable, "churched", people and those who aren't.

This has become real for me in a new way since I started volunteering with Prison Fellowship Ministry (PFM).  In one sense, prisoners are bad people.  They are people who have done bad things, they have victimized other people.  It is much easier on one level to be sympathetic toward the victims than the victimizer.  I've long said that I'd rather be a prosecuting attorney than a defense attorney because the district attorney's office stands up for the people, the victims of crime.

Along with 2 other ladies I currently teach a class on job seeking and keeping as part of PFM's academy. We teach in a medium level prison called CRC.  Our class is comprised of young men who are part of CRC's youth offender program.  CRC has pulled inmates ages 18-25 away from the rest of the population for part of their prison time.  They are housed together and have optional classes together.  Just a couple of weeks ago during class we were discussing that the largest percentage of jobs are obtained through knowing someone.  One of the young men in the class related a story about how he was once working a temp job with 2 others.  He said that he outworked the 2 others by far, but that the 2 other people ended up being offered permanent work for that company while his job ended.  He explained that the other 2 had family members or friends who worked there.  He said that he got really angry about it and thought to himself that he should go rob all of those people.  I remember being shocked when he said that.  I thought to myself - who thinks something like that when they're upset?

Yet, somehow, when I'm there with those young men, I am filled with a sense of how precious they are.  I think it's the Holy Spirit within me; because these young men are precious to God.  The gospel truly is for everyone because God loves everyone.  He doesn't look at people the way that we do.

During these weeks that we've had class together I've come to know some of the young men and their stories.  My heart breaks as they casually mention things about their childhoods that were terrible. Moms who were drug addicts, chaotic households, dads in and out of prison, generations of gang affiliation...these are standard fare among the incarcerated.  God sees their pain and wants something better for these young men; my prayer is that I am a part of bringing that about.

I want to get in line with God's ways of looking at and loving people.  So what does that mean for me in my everyday life?  Are there people with whom I come in contact that I've written off?  Who I find offensive and/or annoying?  The gospel is for them too!  How can really believing this change the way I interact with and talk about these people?

Oh Father, thank You for Your love.  Thank You for extending your salvation to me and everyone else.  Show me ways each day to love the people around me.  Please help me be open to hearing Your voice when I'm around people who I don't like and who annoy me.  Empower me to change my attitude.  May I love people like You do.

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