Thursday, March 26, 2009

Does the Gospel Call You to Take in Convicted Murderers?

HT: Ray Ortlund, Jr. Good morning America featured a story about a pastor in New England who faces the town's disdain for living out the gospel and believing that Christ changes people. See here.


Laurie M. said...

Wow, quite a story. It certainly raises some issues doesn't it?

Clearly the unbelievers in a community can't be expected to believe Christ could perform such a miracle as to change a man like this. I never would have believed it possible if Christ had not changed me. For that reason there is no way at all that these folks can understand the actions of this pastor. I makes sense that they are afraid.

I'm of the feeling that whether this man is a Christian now or not, he should not be out of prison, but now that he is, I think it would be more appropriate that he not be housed in a home full of children. It is possible, after all, that this man is not what he claims to be. No one can see into another's heart. It's one thing for adults to run a risk like that, but I'm not sure it's a right to risk one's children like this. I wouldn't. (I'm assuming, however, that the pastor took this step after finding no one more appropriate to the situation willing to do it and felt desperately that someone needed to step in and do the Christian thing.) If this man is truly a convert, and I pray he is, he will understand and respect the difficulties his presence presents the community.

Hayden said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is a good way to start off the day. The pastor should be commended.

The lady who said 'there are other people who deserve a second chance' does not have a clue what grace is. I pray that this man is truly regenerate and that through this the Pastor boldly teaches his community about grace.


Jay Wingard said...

I would agree with Laurie. While we should accept him as a new creature in Christ we are also taught in the Bible to be discerning and wise. It is unwise to house this man around children like that. It is both an issue for temptation to him and undue stress on the children both in the home and in the community. This is a tough situation. While I commend the pastor for his desire to be caring, there are many other ways to provide for him during his two month stay in the city - such as allowing his congregation to give money to house him in a hotel, etc. It is one thing to embrace a child of God and herald as Paul did to the Corinthians saying, "and such were you..." but another to be unwise in handling a situation that calls for discernment and protection of not only this pastors family but his flock. For example, if someone had a history of stealing before coming to Christ (or fell into a sin of theft as a Christian) it would be unwise to allow that person to be responsible for the church finances - plain and simple. In the same token, this man should never be allowed to work within the children's ministries at their church.

This is a noble story of this pastor and one of a man truly wanting to live out his faith in Christ but I think that a full assessment of what Scripture teaches us about being wise and discerning is also something that should be addressed.

Just my two cents... :-)

Anonymous said...

As a someone who does extensive jail ministry I found myself torn with respect for the courage of this pastor and doubts about the wisdom of the decision.

I fully believe that God can transform and teach and preach that with all my heart to prisoners. But lest we romanticize the reality of conversion experience, I have known many to fall back into their old lifestyle.
Jail ministry brings great joy and great disappointment. We keep plugging away and hoping for change, we rejoice when it happens but are no longer surprised when it doesn't.

I have no reason to doubt this man is saved and forgiven by God and has an eternal destiny in heaven-- many notorious killers have had that experience - several members of the Manson family,and Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz come to mind. Some have become tremendous witnesses behind bars.

But the seriousness of their crimes,public safety issues and concerns of victims and their families are not to be lightly dismissed.

Even those who forgive and don't live with bitterness or resentment aren't obligated to trust that this man's personal change is so great that he will never harm anyone again.

There are sins and dark corners of my life that I struggle with after being a Christian for decades. I can only imagine the struggle that goes on in this man's soul --and the horrific consequences of losing that battle - even for a short period of time. The risks are too great in my opinion.

In general, I have to agree with Laurie M's post. He probably should not have been paroled in the first place. And the government that set him free should find proper supervision in a place that is safe for him and the community.I do think the good of the community has to be considered above any individual.

God bless this pastor - I know he is sincere and I am moved by his compassion. This is not a criticism - more of an opinion of what I would do if faced with this situation.

I tried to find a Biblical analogy to this situation and maybe the closest I can come up with is the conversion of Saul(Paul) and the controversy it caused. But let's also be real - no congregation in the early church ever faced this modern day dilemma. I dont think there were too many convicted child killers walking around on parole.

D.J. Williams said...

Kinda makes you wonder how we would have dealt with, Saul. After all, as far as heinous crimes go, this guy had nothing on him. God bless this pastor and his family.

Hayden said...

-We are called to go 'out side the camp' in Hebrews 13:12-14. It sounds like we as Christians are using caution to justify fears that we have.

All who think this is unwise, ask your self, who did Christ go to in His earthly ministry? This man is a confessing Christian and are you to turn you back to this man's need??? (I think James has something to say about that :--))

I just preached about this today in our church and would invite you to think about what it means to love the brethren. (Thabiti, I hope that you do not see this as self promotion, but this was a study that really affected me as I preached it. If anyone would like to hear it go to: and look under the resources page)

Are we as Christians so fearful that we are to turn a blind eye? I bet that is the first thought that people had when Paul was converted.

I thank the Lord for this Pastor and used his example to demonstrate what grace looks like. These people who are crying out about this man's murder and threatening are no different than he is in their hearts. They are murdering as well.

Paul Nevergall said...

While I don't doubt the sincerity of those in the combox who say that they believe in God's saving grace and His ability to change hearts and minds, I'm often confused by the "but" that typically follows.

I believe this Pastor demonstrates the kind of faith that would have kept him dry after stepping out of the boat.

Julius Mickel said...

Yeah the minute you add but... there's a problem- now you are putting limits on grace. Wisdom and discernment? Where in the scriptures does it tell you to keep a closer eye on certain sins of others??? IT DOESN'T you won't find one text. Share your opinion but that's not biblical, DO you know how many men have dealt with every form of sexual sin, even regarding younger people, do you know what 'being safe' would look like?? it would look like a high-class white suburban country-club, not like the early church (what of the places that contained people who committed 'child-sacrifices' safe for them would be church with no kids- you'd have to aply the same censure to people who have had abortions as well.
I'd of course be concerned with testing the fruits of conversion and that process would be similiar for all men.
like someone said Paul then would have been disqualified, as well as David and Moses among others... throw in John Newton, among others.
Praise God for true Christian brotherhood in the flesh, a church being the church.