Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Can of Ravioli. . .

Before beginning last evenings church meeting in the local county jail where I minister as a volunteer chaplain every week, I was sitting at a table chatting with the fellows. One fellow was introduced to me, with the comment that he had been sitting in jail for several weeks for a can of ravioli. This was said with an undertone of an obviously ridiculous example of the foolishness of our judicial system.

I do not know the circumstances. I make it my business, to be as studiously ignorant as possible of the crimes, and judicial cases of the men and women to whom I minister. It just doesn’t matter to me in the least. If someone wants to share with me the reason or reasons for their being behind bars, I will listen to them, but as much as possible I try to forget everything I hear, almost as soon as I hear it.

I absolutely do realize that there are men and women, especially in the county jail, awaiting trial who are innocent. Many are guilty only of merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I also understand that there truly are numbers of people wrongly convicted. That happens. No one can deny that, but I am powerless to do anything about those injustices, and I am even more powerless to tell the difference between actual injustice, and portrayed injustice. Innocent or guilty. . . guilty of jay walking or guilty of raping and murdering children, it doesn’t matter to me. ALL are born into iniquity and all need the saving power. . . the cleansing power of God.

Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way. . .

Isaiah 64:6
But we are all as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;
and we all do fade as a leaf;
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

ALL. . . there are no exceptions to all. And regardless how the men are sitting before me, came to be dressed in khaki jumpsuits they all need God.

I don’t go into the jail to minister because of an abundance of sin being found there. I am utterly convinced that there is as much sin to be found in an exclusive country club, as in the wards where I minister each week. Surely it would be more pleasant to sit by the swimming pool, or along the tennis courts, or in the fancy clubhouse witnessing to people, but. . . but. . .BUT!!!! it would not be nearly so fruitful. The fields are white and ready for harvest in the jail. The incarcerated men and women of the jail, very importantly have something which those of the country club set do not possess.

For everything they do have, for their fat checking accounts. . . for their large fancy houses. . . their sparklingly new imported cars. . . their designer everything,. . . for all they have, they lack one thing required. The very abundance of their lives, virtually ensures their lack of brokenness, and humility. The have a facade of possessions, which allow them the illusion of success. . . success in the physical, which makes reaching them, in the spiritual realm for God very difficult.

If the jail is good for nothing else, it is excellent at humbling a person. While in jail, the men and women there lose virtually everything they possess. . . homes, cars, jobs, wives/husbands/mates, children, reputation, self-respect. . . and on and on and on the list could go. Jail strips a person of almost everything, forcing a deep crisis upon them. . . forcing a person to their knees. . . and that is an excellent position. . . maybe an essential position in which to find the Lord.

It seems terribly harsh to be brought to such a state over a can of ravioli, which may have only cost $1. As I said, I know nothing of man’s case beyond that, but I do know that sin is sin is sin is sin. . . . I read no where in the Bible of sin being categorized into classes of felonies, and misdemeanors.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death;
but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Examples abound of what seem to be deathly harsh penalties for seemingly small infractions. You need look no further than Adam and Eve. . .

Genesis 3:6
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

In disobedience Eve reached her hand for the forbidden fruit, but It surely could have been a hand reaching to steal a can of ravioli, sitting on a grocery store shelf rather than a piece of fruit hanging from a tree. . . Disobedience to God is not unique to Eve. But by her sin, all humanity was condemned to be cursed to a lifetime of toil, and pain, as a consequence of the sin of Adam. Her sin, the first sin of all mankind significantly ruptured the relationship between God and man for ages to come. How harsh is that? He warned them that death would follow disobedience. That is the way of God. He gives us warning as to his expectations. Be aware, God has zero tolerance for sin and disobedience.

2 Samuel 6:6-7
And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. (7) And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

Uzzah merely put out his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant, when the cart upon which it rested shook. What a minor infraction to the eyes of the world. . . but the profane can never come in contact with the holy, without disastrous consequences. God had warned how the Ark was to be moved, and the Ark of the Covenant was never to be touched, by other than a Holy man of God of the tribe of the Levites.

There were then, and there now no exceptions given. Sin and disobedience is always a barrier between man and God:

John 3:3-6
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Jesus emphatically did not undo any of those requirements. What Jesus did do, was to make a way for man’s sins to be atoned for, for a man to be reborn in righteousness, and He died that our sins could be washed away by His shed blood. That is the good news. Contrary to the preaching of many feel good Christian churches: The good new is not, that in this dispensation of grace that all requirements of holiness and righteousness have been done away with.

Today as for Adam and as for Eve and as for Uzzah, and as for Nicodemus, as for the man in the jail last night who only stole a can of ravioli: to be in fellowship with God. . . to commune with Him in the cool of the day. . . to enter into His gates in heaven, you must rid yourself of sin. . . You must know God, and more importantly He must know you. Whether it be a forbidden bite of fruit. . .or an unauthorized touching of the Ark of the covenant, or the stealing of a mere can of ravioli, unrepented and unpaid for sin will send you to hell for eternity. . .

We do not stand in righteousness indignation. . .Jesus did not stand pointing a condemning finger in scorn . . . rather we kneel in humility. . .in thanksgiving and gratitude. . . We implore. . . We sound warnings of the judgment to come. We labor to spread good news of Jesus Christ. . .

We must turn away from sin. . .We must embrace God. . .

Matthew 11:28-30
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Find peace for your soul. . .
Find rest for your weariness. . .
Find refuge from the storm. . .
Find God. . .

I love you my Lord. . .
I love you my God. . .

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