There’s a man in prison who watches Time of Grace and writes me grateful, encouraging, and faith-filled letters. One day, however, I came across his legal history online, and the words assault of a minor, repeated, and felony grabbed my attention and broke my heart. I thought about this man’s potential release and the possibility he would show up on Sunday to worship next to my family. As I considered the glory of his forgiveness and the reality that his sin could happen again, I agonized over the question, What would Jesus do?
If a man with an abusive history was in the crowd in the first century, what would Jesus do? And what should we do today? Should we lock the church doors when certain types of sinners get out of their cars? warn the parents? “forgive and forget”? Saying, “Everyone is welcome” is easy, but when everyone includes everyone, what then?
In the days to come, I want to wrestle with that question by speaking directly to people who have committed the sin of abuse. This description of Jesus will guide my words: “[The Son] came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). To do what Jesus did means to be full of grace and truth. It means being Christians who care about “the least of these” without watering down undeserved love and while also holding to the highest standards of truth and healthy boundaries.
Keep reading to find the four things I would say to our friend in prison and anyone who comes to church with abuse in their past.