For the past year or so, I go on Tuesday afternoon’s to minister to guys in jail. It is one of the highlights of the week for me. I love being able to spend time with these guys who are so eager to transform their lives, and I love the opportunity of helping someone choose a different path.
One of those guys, I’ll call him Robbie, has shown me the power of the Gospel.
To hear Robbie talk about who he used to be, what he used to do, is shocking. You could not find two people more different. Robbie was the kind of guy that my parents warned me about growing up. I was home schooled, he didn’t finish school, I was segregated from black people, he was segregated from white people.
We were both taught to be afraid of each other.
This last Monday myself and another minister went to court to testify on Robbie’s behalf. He had gotten off for one charge, and could have gotten off on another. But, here’s the kicker, he wouldn’t plead not guilty for something he knew he was guilty of. He wouldn’t lie, even if it meant he could go home.
I told you he was changing.
And I sat in court and heard Robbie plead guilty to a charge that they might not have got a conviction for, and then he apologized to the city of Fort Worth.
I am not naive, I know that sometimes after people are released from court they go back to living their old lives. I know that Robbie will have hard times, and even be tempted. But he won’t be doing this on his own. Leslie and I, along with a few other friends, have gotten to know his family. We have developed a support system for Robbie, and when he gets out he has a mission.
See for the past year Robbie has been telling us what he wants to do with his life. He grew up in a gang. He rose to the top and became was a leader, people always looked to him for direction. And now he is going to give it to them. Robbie’s dream for his life is to end gang violence. He knows how destructive it can be. He got in a gunfight with a childhood friend just because they were each wearing different colors. He has a PH.d. from the university of messed up. He knows firsthand what systematic evil looks like.
But he has had an encounter with the risen Jesus, and he knows the power of God for his friends and family. And I think Robbie is going to change his world. He’s been reading up on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and how he went about communicating the power of non-violence.
I worry for Robbie, I worry that life as a changed man in an unchanged neighborhood might be harder than he expects. I worry that people might not accept his transformation as easily as those who love him. I worry that he’ll slip. But Jesus has transformed others in worse places than Him. It seems like God loves to choose people that others have written off, just to show how good He is.
To hear Robbie talk sounds like a contemporary version of the prophet Isaiah. He sees a day when the blood and crips are no longer enemies. A day when guns are traded in for diplomas. He’s enrolling in a seminary, and when he gets out he is going to put the gospel on display.
And one day I’ll be able to tell you his name.
* I took this picture Monday in the Courthouse at Tarrant County (I hope it’s not illegal to post it).