Summary: This touches on the inmates that convert to Christ while incarcerated and, often times, the hypocritical criticisms directed towards them.
One thing you may find to be true is that a lot of people in the church are hypocrites. They sit in the pews and are spoon fed the gospel but their minds and activities are not open to what their ears hear. Often, if you don't look like them, talk like them or even dress like them they throw up barriers or cast about veiled or whispered criticisms. Parolees and ex-cons frequently face this kind of 'soft' discrimination even when we escort them to our church.
Recently, at a senior center, I gave a lesson about some really bad persons that later on converted to accept Christ as their Savior. One member of this Senior Bible study class was a black man of 68 years yet relatively young in his recent acceptance of Jesus. There were a couple of situations about Zeb (not his real name) that I'd like to share with you. He had trouble in his past life with alcohol addiction. Zeb, a truly homeless drunk, was living in a car after his relatives kicked him out. One night he woke up from a cold winter's sleep. Reaching down for his drink wrapped in the brown paper bag on the floorboard, some special spectral power stopped Zeb's hand. No matter what he tried, Zeb could not reach his booze bottle. But he really wanted that booze. So he sat back and smoked a cigarette and then tried again. The same thing happened, Zeb could not grasp the brown-paper bag no matter how hard he tried. In his own words, Zeb told me he knew God was stopping him. He's been off the booze ever since and that was in 2014.
But remember, there was more than one problem Zeb told me about. While Zeb was locked up in a city jail, his younger brother finagled the Chief of Police to temporarily release Zeb to take him to an attorney and sign some papers about their mother's insurance settlement. Trusting his brother, Zed signed. Later, Zed found out that his brother had tricked him into forgoing his share of the family properties. Let me also reveal his younger brother was and still professes to be an active Christian. What a hypocrite.
The problem Zeb now has is that he can't forgive his brother. He should. What happened decades ago can't be fixed by holding the hate in himself. Good people do bad things, just as bad people do a few good things. A few “bad” Christians, or even a zillion bad Christians, should never interfere with anyone's one-on-one relationship with Jesus. You don't have to go to Church to be saved. You do not have to be baptized by man to be saved because the Holy Spirit's Baptism is the one that wrap's God's loving and protective grace around you. But the more you allow God to work in your heart, the more you will want to show obedience unto the Lord.
For both his and his brother's sake, Zeb and I are working together on bible verses about forgiveness. If Zeb goes to his brother and forgives him, maybe Zeb's testimony will have a Christian effect on his brother's walk with the Lord. If Zeb can't forgive his brother, he should ask Jesus for forgiveness, for all sin is against God, not mankind.
Have you ever heard of Nick Cruz, “Tex” Watson, Jack Murphy, Charles Colson, Karla Tucker, Charles Manson, or Saul of Tarsus, better known as Apostle Paul? Are more than one of the names familiar to you? Can you guess what similarities those named persons share?
All were arrested and incarcerated. Some committed murder while some ordered others to commit murder for their campaigns of terror. Even though much of our Christian beliefs are based on Paul's New Testament writings, he admitted his responsibility for the deaths of many Christians. He might not have executed them personally, but gave the killing orders. In Acts 22, verse 4, we read, "And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women."
When it comes right down to it, were Paul's actions any better or worse than Charles Manson? Both were led by misguided ideology to kill innocent people. Neither man might have directly killed others, but by their authority, had innocent persons killed. If Charles Manson had converted to Christianity before he died in 2017, would most Church-goers forgive him enough to accept him as Christian? What do you think?
Conversions of so called “tough guys” have been the subject of many movies and books. Nicky Cruz was only 3-1/2 years old when his heart turned to stone. As one of 18 children born to witchcraft-practicing parents from Puerto Rico, bloodshed and crime were common occurrences in his young life. He suffered severe physical and mental abuse at their hands, at one time was declared the "Son of Satan" by his mother while she was in a spiritual trance. His story, The Cross and the Switchblade record the dramatic conversion of the 1950's New York City gang members. Cruz was witnessed to and converted to Christianity. Shortly after Cruz became the gang leader, David Wilkerson was preaching in the neighborhood when Cruz encountered him. The preacher told Cruz that "Jesus loved him and would never stop loving him". Cruz slapped Wilkerson and threatened to kill him. Wilkerson attempted again later to convert Cruz and received a similar response. Later, Wilkerson organized an evangelistic meeting in the neighborhood. When Cruz heard about it, he and members of his gang headed for the meeting place.