One thing that Christ commanded was for us to preach the gospel to the lost, and to accept those that become our brothers and sisters in Christ and help them by continuing to teach them and being there for them. Often, if you preach the gospel often and bring up God a lot with strangers you’ll find a handful that are willing and wanting to study the Bible with you. All of that is great.
But my question is what do you do when that person ends up having done some really bad things. Such as if you are working with a prison ministry. While at a prison it’s easy to feel like you’re doing something good and offering light in darkness to study with people who has done something evil. But what happens when that person who became a Christian in prison gets out and shows up at your congregation. That’s where honestly sometimes I struggle. I have even been told by several that if you do reach out like that then you should do it an hour or so away. That it’s better to not do it within your community.
Or if it’s not even in prison but simply the guy you met on the streets who looked like he was really thirsty and so you ask him if he wants something to drink and then while sitting in the shade and drinking you mention God and begin witnessing to them and they want it. They want to be forgiven by God. They want a spiritual family to be there for them. They want a congregation to come to and then sometime later you find out that they were convicted of rape, murder and ect…
How do you sit next to them in church now knowing this and don’t see them as less than you or not as deserving as you or even the internal battle of should you gossip about them behind their backs and justify it as just protecting your good worthy friends in the body that maybe our newest member is some sort of threat.
It often makes me think of the apostle Paul. Paul was a murder of Christians who persecuted them terribly. He also came to Christ and we read a few passages here and there about the disciples at various times in the beginning being judgmental towards him.
I was at a congregation once as a kid and I’ll always remember it. There was a woman probably in her mid 20s who started going to our church. “Somehow a guy in our congregation who had a flat tire and pulled into what unfortunately turned out to be a strip club remembered seeing that woman come out of the bar”. Within a few weeks throughout whatever gossipy way they did it it was revealed that she use to be a stripper, that she went to jail for drug abuse and that at one time she even got caught kidnapping pets that were outside and trying to threaten the owners into giving her money or they would not see their little cat or do. She went to jail for like 2 years and was out.
Instantly any guy in church that was talking to her was suspected of just wanting to sleep with her, and anytime she was talking to a guy they were wanted that they should remember to avoid temptations and so on. It got to the point only a month or two later that she broke down and was crying and venting about the judgement and that her past is not all that she is and left. But what I remembered the most was after she left and we saw her drive off in the middle of the service the pastor said that God has a way of removing the the bad yeast from the flour.
As someone in my 30s now looking back 20 years ago I can’t believe that there was any part of me that just accepted it that she should not be there snd that almost a entire congregation of mostly 40+ years olds ridiculed, belittled, and undermined the faith of a a woman around 25 all while in church until she cried and left.
But then I realize at times I’ve done similar things to people. There has been people I met snd begin studying the Bible with who struggled with drugs and would call me because they rode with a friend back from work and was at a trailer park 40 minutes away and the others would doing drugs and so he left and he was walking back home trying to hitchhike snd it’s raining and could I get them and I instantly thought of all the “junkies” that have been in my life and how exhausting it is to have them and so I just say no and would find myself in church at times and not wanting to invite them with me and a few others out to eat or go to the movies or go hiking with us and ect…
Essentially how do you handle accepting these people with a terrible past as your real brothers and sisters in Christ and be like Jesus snd even eat with them and spend time genuinely loving them and even having them over to your house for fellowship and so on.
Are there any good books on this subject. I believe I already know what we are supposed to do, just looking for how others have handled this and what scriptures and books they connected with to help them do it.