In my late teens, I was blessed to be mentored by two powerful women. They also discipled young inmates who come to know Christ while incarcerated. Most of these young men were first-time offenders and found themselves in trouble due to drug addiction and rebellion. Their fledgling forays in the legal system terrified them. The calm, gentle, and no-nonsense discipleship method used by Opal and Myrtle wooed even the hardest of hearts into the kingdom. Revival spread through a minimum security jail on the outskirts of our city as the God of Second Chances transformed lives.
When new believers finished their jail sentence, they were not bereft of fellowship. Myrtle and Opal rented an old house in the downtown core that was close to becoming condemned and gave it a second chance. With the help of friends, they spruced it up and found suitable house parents to watch over the unofficial halfway house. Every week, dozens of young Christians crammed into the living room of the old house to join the housemates for a time of fellowship, worship, and bible study. There was no sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’; we were all brothers and sisters in Christ. We were all redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We all knew the God of Second Chances.
A crimson thread ran through the stories of the young men I met through the halfway house ministry. Most experienced profound rejection from their family. A few grew up in church but drifted away in their teen years. Others ran away to escape from abusive environments. Regardless how each young man arrived there, they all found themselves at the Cross. They knew they were powerless to change their lives. They believed that with the power of God’s redeeming love and the support of a loving community, they could triumph over addiction, bitterness, unforgiveness, and self-hatred.
Unfortunately, a few of my friends slipped back into self-destructive behaviours. We welcomed them back with open arms when they were ready to admit they had messed up. As they experienced unconditional love and acceptance, they found it easier to submit to discipleship and to accept the consequences of poor choices. To them, God was not just the God of Second Chances, He was the God who relentlessly pursued them despite their many falls. Eventually, most of the young men found freedom.
Former addicts became pastors and missionaries. Rebellious teens returned to school and eventually became doctors and business leaders. Young women were healed and restored and became influential role models in their communities. Young men grew in their faith and learned to mentor others.
Most weekends, we all headed down to a Christian coffeehouse and fellowshipped into the wee small hours. I learned how to pray for others through observation and hands-on experience. I learned how to see past the bad manners, poor hygiene, and seemingly impenetrable walls that protected wounded hearts. I saw miracles take place before my eyes: deliverance, physical healings, lives transformed. I counted drug addicts, alcoholics, college students, con artists, kids from the suburbs, members of the First Nations, and influential businessmen as friends.
Long after I moved from my hometown, I stumbled upon an article in a national newspaper about one of the young men who had I met during my coffee-house ministry days. I honestly can’t remember if Pat had been in trouble with the law before he came to know the Lord. I do know he lived on the streets as a panhandler for several years.
I remember Pat for his love for the One who gave him a second chance. Pat quietly served behind the coffee bar; washing dishes and tidying up. HIs dish-washing ministry evolved into the beginning of a flourishing network of inner-city churches that continue to touch thousands of lives. In recognition of his service, Pat received the ‘Order of Canada’, one of the highest honours given a civilian. He gave credit to all those who had not written him off as just a kid from the streets.
If you find it difficult to accept God as one who bestows not only second chances, but multiple opportunities to redeem the mess you made out of your life, you might find it just as hard to give others a second chance.
Peter and Judas both betrayed Christ, but Peter alone repented with godly sorrow. Through his heart understanding of Christ’s forgiveness, Peter went on to boldly preach the gospel without condemning those who came against him. Peter knew the God of Second Chances.
Do a character study of a Biblical character who either took full advantage of their second chance or who through that chance away. What was their legacy?
Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
God of second chances, when we think we have gone too far and that there is no possible way that You would ever take us back, Your forgiveness is there the moment we turn to You. May we carry Your heart to those whom society has labelled as beyond redemption. When we are tempted to write off those who betray us, empower us with the same grace You displayed toward Peter after his betrayal. Give us the wisdom, patience, grace and long-suffering needed to walk with those who return to us battered and bruised. May we be Your instruments of reconciliation and restoration.
All Bible verses, unless otherwise attributed, are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Until Next Week
©2017 Katherine Walden
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