For years I have spoken words of justification for what my husband does. “It’s a ministry. He’s called to do it. . . . For some of his clients he’s the first adult to give them respect – the first person to look them in the eye and firmly shake their hand in many years, and sometimes ever! ”
Can you imagine going through life without being looked in the eye? Being greeted only by disdain? It would wound your soul. It is dehumanization at its core.
But to many what Andy does is an ugly job of defending the guilty and undeserving. Yes, he (we) defends drunks, drug addicts, drug dealers, those with mental health issues, sneaky people, stinky people, child abusers, sex offenders, and even once, a murderer. And that makes people uncomfortable, and even, sometimes, resentful.
Some of our Christian friends are openly bothered by it, frustrated that resources are wasted on the sinful people who so obviously don’t deserve it. Others give lip service to seeing the ministry of it all. But by their comments and actions it is clear they want to stay as far away from it as they can. They really wish Andy had a different kind of work – what he does is just so very uncomfortable for them, and it just can’t be right to defend “those kind of people.”
There is certainly much to point a finger at and look down upon. The nakedness of ugly sin is so hard to look upon.
I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
When I resigned from my job a couple of weeks ago in order to spend my time supporting my husband in his work, I got it again. That quick comment about how maybe with my help he’ll change his practice area – hopefully getting a new type of client, beginning to work for “the right kind of people.”
It makes me laugh a bit inside when I hear this now. It used to make me furious. But I have come to believe they really don’t know what they are saying – they haven’t really thought it through – how could they have? It’s just not possible. They are good Christian people, and I will enjoy seeing them in heaven. Heck, I enjoy them in my earthly life right now. But, what we do day in and day out does not make any sense to them.
When did we see you needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
Didn’t Jesus hang out with the worst of the worst in his society? The adulterous women, prostitutes, and thieving cheating tax collectors were His friends – He ate in their homes, drank from their cups.
One of His last acts, while He hung on a tree in defiance of anything we would call justice, was to give life to a guilty robber – even as He was giving each and every one of us a chance at life.
I tell you the truth, whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
The most satisfying part of what my husband does? Sometimes, not every time, and not even most times, but sometimes we are standing at worship service, praising God, and in walks a familiar face – a client who my husband sent to the Life Recovery group, a young college student who drank too much at a party that my husband encouraged to get back to the church he was raised in, or a humbled man who knows the Lord even while he fights the demons of meth. We can’t run over and announce to the congregation that this is someone Andy has worked with, but our hearts are bursting with joy at the possibilities of where God is working.
And that murderer? This past weekend I ran across a letter from him in prison. Written several years ago – almost a decade really. And it speaks of Christs love, Bible Study, and the ability to sustain himself during his incarceration because of Jesus.
That makes it all worth it. All the disdain some of our friends quietly hide in their hearts (and sometimes don’t hide at all) for what happens in our office every-single-day – it becomes nothing to our hearts. The work and power of God is evident to us, if not to those around us.
But yesterday, God gave a special gift. A friend who gets it.
A friend who understands that what my husband does is right. A friend who has no connection to the legal system but passionately praises the work of my husband – not because she knows any of his clients or has seen any results from his work, but because she understands the concept of working with all people means working with sinners, and the sinners in the criminal justice system are no more separated from God by their sin than the sinners working in any other sphere of human functioning.
Thank you God for a sister who understands and appreciates. A sister who puts skin on your love and shows it to us in such an unabashed supporting way! A sisters who says: Isn’t that what Jesus did?