Christianity -- Christian Living/Loving the unlovely
QUESTION: Hello and thank you in advance for answering my question. I was looking for advice on how to witness to "hard-core" people. First I have to explain a little before I ask the question. :)Sorry, it is a little long. Please bear with me.
I really enjoy encouraging others and telling them of a new life in Christ and I feel that God has given me a little extra Joy for the task! But on a more serious note I feel God has called me in to the ministry to speak love and life in Christ and Joy - and while I am a tough love type of person by nature - God has softened my heart tremendously and I also have developed a little bit of a heart for people who are incarcerated that were victims of abuse.
While I believe that people can't use that as an excuse to commit crimes, usually it's abuse as a child that greatly contributes to a ruined life. I know because my brothers and I were all severely abused as children. It's an absolute miracle that I am even alive and one of my brother's was in and out of jail all for alcohol and drug issues and he has not fully recovered from the abuse either. It's very devastating to a child more than the average person even knows.
For me, I have overcome such great obstacles! My testimony is too long to tell here. But let me say it wasn't easy and I suffered terribly and it took years! But God restored and healed me and I am the most "normal and happy" person I know!
But my point is that while people who are incarcerated or had been, do need to pay the penalty but, I know a God of second chances and love and forgiveness and restoration. So when I see people like that I get sad and really want to reach out to them and preach the gospel and let them know about the new life they can have in Christ. While I don't feel that will be my entire ministry, I do feel that it will play a part.
But, then the more I began to think about it I considered that what do I do if I come across a person who is not the abused but the abuser? What if they were the one who harmed a child or even brutally disfigured them or killed and so on.? I know that God forgives and plays no favorites. Sin is sin. While I do believe that God can forgive all hurts. I still get disgusted when I see severe child abuse. I get angry. Even before I was saved I still knew wrong from right and I don't understand how people do such things but I know that the world is evil/devil too so...
So I have wondered how to handle that. I guess I know I cannot play favorites. God forgives all and puts a hand out to anyone who wants it. I have also seen great testimonies of people in prison who did terrible things and they found Christ and started preaching in there! I saw one story of a guy who was executed but found Christ before hand and did great things in prison. You could actually see Christ in him. They showed pictures of him when he was arrested and how he looked when he died. It was night and day! The peace he had on him was amazing! He had peace even knowing he was going to die, he was happy. That is Christ!
I just wondered your thoughts on how to go in this direction? How to start to prepare? Please and thank you!
ANSWER: Dear V,
Thank you for writing. I thank God for your desire to minister to the unsaved, and you mentioned "Those in prison" Based upon the information you have provided, it appears that you are allowing God to use you, but you are still hurt by your experience, even though you believe you are most "normal and happy person" you know. You are still affected by your experience. You are still hurt and angry. You may want to minister to those who have been a victim of abuse, but it appears to be overwhelming to you at this time. Please remember that we all deal with childhood trauma in different ways.
Some are able to forgive, heal and move on to live a "normal life" loving the Lord and raising a wonderful family. Then you have those who blame God for not stopping the abuse, and they lead a life of addiction and bad relationships unable to allow God to heal them.
Then you have those who convince themselves that they are okay, they love the Lord and attempt to live a normal life, but deep inside the memory still affect them.
It appears that you are in the third category "You feel disgusted and angry when you see severe child abuse" There is nothing wrong with experiences those feelings, but you must know that God would not send you into a ministry that causes you pain. As a child of God you recognized your feelings about child abusers.
My suggestion is that you pray and ask God what he wants you to do(Pray until you get an answer) Contact a Christian Counselor just to run what you have told me and see what he/she
says about having a few sessions with you just to share what you have told me.
Since God has forgiven you, you can forgive others. Without God,the attitude of forgiveness is not possible.
God asks us to forgive everyone even those who abuse and mistreat us but if you are in danger or personal harm you should escape to a safe place. ( Understand you were a child at this time) Your willingness to forgive is one measure of your relationship with God. ( I am not addressing your forgiveness of the one or ones who did you harm) I am addressing your feelings about abusers which you described in your letter.
Jesus, says, "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned forgive and you will be forgiven"
Please Read Colossians 3:8:17
I pray that this response will be a blessing to you.
May God bless you and guide you daily.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hello, and thank you for your quick response too. Well you are right in most of what you have said and I will take your advice. But actually, God has healed my heart of those wounds.
I guess what I meant was that in studying and hearing good sermons about emotions that God gave us for (a purpose) that emotions are often there for people to react when they need to. For example, healthy fear would be stepping out of the way of a moving truck to avoid getting run over. Anger is a good emotion if let's say someone was physically jumping on you and you had to react to save yourself and so on. And I am sure you would agree that if you saw a child being badly abused by an adult it was cause you to become angry or upset etc.
But when I said I get angry and disgusted it's because that while God has healed my heart, memories will be there until I die - because I know first hand what it's like. Does all that make sense?
So I guess I was thinking that what if while on my walk with God in ministry and hopefully (it will be almost always on the encouragement and joy side that I feel called to but however God leads...) I will still likely encounter some "offenders" and I agree that God forgives even the most vile of humans and forgiveness is out there for everyone and I have seen first hand how forgiveness can set the best example. For example, as a newly saved Christian I was able to tell someone (this happened as an adult) that I forgave them for this horrible wrong that they did to me. Better yet, I was able to tell it to their face and I got to also say that it was Jesus! How I had found Jesus...Oddly enough it was the ugly ordeal that they did to me that ended up leading me to Christ.
The great thing about it was the person's jaw dropped and for a man who always had plenty to say, didn't know what to say! What a great testimony to God that is. So, I do fully understand how forgiveness works.
I guess part of my concern was that I wondered what I would say as a witness to a "vile" person should I come across one. But you know, I could and likely will meet some of those in my everyday life and not necessarily a prison setting. Most often though people don't admit to abusing children or animals. I do know and very much believe that God can change even the hardest of hearts and the worst of the worst because that is how great he is! Thank you Jesus! So I was just basically wanting to clarify but initially wondered about how to go about witnessing to someone like that should it arise? Thank you again and have a great day!
Thank you for your follow-up response. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. "Yes, it does make sense that you still have memories" "Praise God" that you were able to forgive others as God has forgiven you.
I am so thankful for your relationship with God and your love for others. God will guide and direct you as He does His work in, and through you. I thank God for the healing that has taken place in you and I pray that should you encounter an abuser, you will pray first then, God will strengthen you to be able to minister to them with love and compassion.
Thank you for being a faithful Christian.
May God Bless and keep you in his perfect care.