A 16 year old Oklahoma defendant was in court having pled guilty to the charge of 2nd degree manslaughter. It seems he and a friend had been drinking. The defendant was the driver of a car where his friend and passenger was killed. The judge imposed a maximum 10 year suspended sentence with the stipulation that this young man a) finish high school, and b) attend worship every Sunday in a local church of his choosing. It seems the judge believes this is the young man's best chance for transformation, attend church every Sunday. God had the same plan. Transformation for the individual and transformation for the whole world if we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Perhaps if we were on probation from the courts and risked being sent to prison for 10 years, we too could be faithful in keeping every Sabbath holy. What if this 16 year old young man was coming to your church? What would you do with him? What would he think of your congregation? What would he hear from the pulpit? Would he feel forgiveness from members of the congregation that knew his situation? Would you have forgiven him? Is your worship age appropriate for 16 year olds? Would he feel engaged and feel included?
We don't have much room for convicted felons in our churches. We like to think we are better people than lawbreakers. Yet everyone is in worship for a reason. Everyone has an empty place that begs to be filled. Maybe this young man will find deep disciples willing to be his surrogate parents or a mentor who will partner with him in his transformation while working on their own transformation. My nightmare is that this young man could attend Sunday morning worship in many of our churches and no one would welcome him. No one would speak to him. I pray that I am wrong but I fear that I am right.
The church for tomorrow will accept everyone just as they are. Churches won't just talk the talk but they will walk the walk. Are you OK sitting next to a convicted felon in church? More importantly, are you able to suspend judgement long enough to be an active part of the law breaker's transformation? When we enter into another's transformation and you will experience a transformation of your own.