“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1 NLT
“That soul that can
Be honest is the only perfect man”
Excited about the ever-approaching date of my release, and eager to join with others to share, build upon, and exercise my faith in God, I asked my ever-faithful friend, editor, and research assistant, Diane, to locate a church in Hollywood, Florida that I could reach out to.
“The Church” – as I shall refer to it – that she found online seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. Their website was proud of the fact that they were a Bible-based church, and listed were several “Statements Of Faith”, not the least of which was “The power of Christ to save men eternally from the penalty of sin….” (Romans 6:23)
“The Church’s” website included instructions on how to “Become A Christian”. The very first sentence stated that “The central theme of the Bible is God’s love for YOU AND FOR ALL PEOPLE.” (emphasis mine)
There was also a claim made that “We Are Sinful” and the Holy Bible was quoted to substantiate that claim: “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NIV)
The website went on to list the many groups, activities and missions supported by “The Church”, and I noticed among them that they worked with another group that assisted inmates in Florida with Bible study courses. ” Wow! A prison ministry! I could be helpful there!” I thought.
“The Church listed contact information and a mailing address so I sat down and wrote a 12 page letter to one of the individuals listed.
It was not just any old letter. It was 12 painful pages of acknowledgement of my life of sin and full disclosure of the charges that put me in prison. It was 12 pages of truth about what I had done and how far I had allowed myself to sink into the clutches of sin. It was 12 long, painful pages that retraced the road to Hell that I was on and I recounted, once more, the horror of attempting to atone for that sinful life by attempting to end it.
Those 12 pages were difficult to write, but I felt the need to be totally upfront with the people of “The Church”. I felt confident that in acknowledging past mistakes, I would find acceptance among them. I felt that I would be welcomed.
Those 12 pages also held out my hope for understanding and compassion and I tried to include in those pages the things that I have been doing while in prison to fix what was broken and to work towards becoming the man God intended me to be from the beginning.
I shared my excitement at the discoveries I had made not only in the Bible, but within my own heart as well. I discussed things I had written in these Chronicles and I shared examples of how God had inspired me and guided me in the writing of “TODAY IS….A GIFT FROM GOD”.
In those 12 pages I tried to take responsibility for what I had done and demonstrate how I had changed. I quoted from one of my devotionals titled “TODAY IS….the perfect day to realize that anyone can change.” In that devotional I wrote, “But what if everyone were to embrace all of mankind with the same love that the Lord does? What if we all viewed the worst that society has to offer as having the potential to be the best that the world has ever seen?”
It was with a confident hope for a positive response that I placed those 12 pages into a large manila envelope along with 6 pages of my daily devotionals. I dropped it into the mailbox with the sure knowledge that I was taking a positive step towards building a life upon my release; a life totally different from the one that led to this prison.
As the weeks went by with no response at all, I began to become a little unsettled. “Perhaps he is sharing the whole package with the entire congregation. Maybe I will get 100 letters welcoming me into my new spiritual home!” The time kept passing and the letters never came. I began to see “The Church” in a different light.
After 2 months, my friend Diane emailed “The Church” on my behalf and received no response at all. My sister Kathy then called repeatedly and finally was able to speak to the man I had sent the 12 pages to. After all that time, he said he had just started to read it and would finish it “next week”. He said he would call her back.
That was several weeks ago and it has now been 3 months and one week since I optimistically mailed those 12 pages. There will be no further attempts on the part of myself or anyone else to contact “The Church”. Silence sometimes is extremely painful to one’s ears and heart, and I think this would qualify as one of those times. But I have prayed over this whole thing and I believe that I have come to understand the problem here. Most likely I could have saved myself a little time and trouble had I inquired in the beginning if “The Church” accepted IMPERFECT sinners or if they only accepted PERFECT ones.
You see, as one who is required to register as a sex offender, I suspect I fall into a category that makes me undesirable with some churches. I have been told that this is not uncommon; that there are many churches that have ‘standards’. As ridiculous as this sounds, and as absolutely contrary to every word in the Holy Bible that it IS, many churches only accept PERFECT sinners. This must be an oversight on the part of whoever put together the website for “The Church”. Perhaps that should be stated clearly…”PERFECT SINNERS ONLY”. That way those of us who are IMPERFECT sinners would not waste valuable time that they could be using ministering only to those who have sinned according to their standards.
Perhaps I need to run an ad in Craigslist. How about this:
“FREE TO GOOD SPIRITUAL HOME”
One VERY imperfect sinner. I am old, but I can learn new tricks.
I am housebroken, and can be useful in many ways. I can help minister
to the poor, feed the hungry, assist the elderly, and I can even cook.
I prefer to NOT do windows.
What do you think?
In the meantime, I will do this: I will pray to God for His forgiveness for “The Church”. I will ask Him to help them to grow in their understanding of what He expects from those who claim to work in His name.
And I will thank Him for loving me, IMPERFECT sinner that I am, and for giving me His promise of a future and a hope. I will also thank Him for the life He gave me that I tried to end so senselessly, and for the ability to write the 12 pages that I wrote knowing that I have HIS approval, His forgiveness, His mercy, and HIS love.
God bless you all.