by Christy Hoagland

Since we have been doing prison ministry we have met many people, many offenders who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. I have looked into the eyes of people I knew were murderers, pedophiles, rapists and have loved them. I think God has given me the ability to love them, it is a supernatural thing. I have never been afraid of anyone I have encountered in our prison services or felt the need to shun them. Now don’t get me wrong, I abhor their sin (I abhor yours and my own too) and if I were to think on their crimes too hard and too much I may start to get carried away in my flesh and think less of them but God reminds me of His grace and keeps my eyes fixed on His calling for me, for this ministry – to speak the truth and hope of the Gospel into the lives of the incarcerated, even a murderer and to love them.

Not long ago I was told the details of an ex-offender’s crime, a murderer but now follower and lover of Jesus. To be honest, it affected me, I became queasy and my heart ached for the lives lost, their families and so much more. And then in another wave of emotion just seconds later my heart turned toward him and it hurt for him, for the memory of his sin and the years of consequences. We were getting ready to set up for an event so I held back the tears until an appropriate time and then I wept for him. I couldn’t help thinking how he has probably replayed this memory over and over because that’s what the enemy likes to do to us to keep us from remembering what Christ has done for us. I thought about how this now NEW man must feel about the old one. I really wanted to go find him and throw my arms around him and tell my brother in Christ that he is loved. I believe he knows this truth and I am thankful. But there are so many more that struggle with God’s gift of grace, that it can cover the size of their sin.

My friend, the murderer, is a great man of God and God is going to use him is so many amazing ways. But that is because He believes God, He believes the Word of truth that says he has been redeemed and set free and made new. And if we should have any doubt that God forgives and uses men such as he, let us look at Paul.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Let’s go tell about a forgiving God, about the sacrifice of Jesus for all sin no matter who they are or how big their sin…

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