In my local area, there is a program called Churches Embracing Offenders (CEO). This program is included as part of someone who has gone to jail’s rehabilitation requirements. The churches involved in CEO take on an offender and help them to overcome whatever issue they may be facing that got them in jail. This can be anything from theft to drug addiction and even child abuse. I happen to think that this program is horribly hypocritical.
Let me preface my comments here by saying that I am in no way perfect. I am not elevating myself above the law and above rules and commandments of Scripture. I make my share of mistakes and have my own personal sin struggles. I don’t always get it right every time. With that being said, back to the point of this essay.
This program is horribly hypocritical. CEO demands that a church embrace someone who has gone to jail and is needing rehab while the church can treat its own members like crap and ignore the issues they may be facing. I know of a church that is a part of CEO yet they are constantly turning people away who have heating bills that need paying, struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction, or who don’t dress like they want them to.
It is the height of hypocrisy when the church will embrace an outside drug addict and help him recover and turn away or ignore the problems within its own congregation.
Note, I am by no means saying that CEO is a bad program. On the contrary, it is a wonderful program and one which all communities should start. My issue comes with the way churches utilize the program and ignore the struggles within their own body.
Jesus asks us a very pointed question.
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? (Luke 6:41 HCSB)
Our churches are full of people who have problems. We are not in a place to be embracing jailed offenders if we are unwilling to minister to those who are already a part of our particular body of believers.
Notice I said “unwilling” and not “incapable”. There is a difference between those 2 words. Being incapable of ministering to the people is one thing. In this case, that church should not, and probably isn’t, a part of CEO. Being unwilling to minister is another issue entirely.
I remember a story about Jesus where a woman washes His feet with some costly oil. One of the disciples complains and says that she should have sold the oil and used the money to help the poor. Jesus replies,
“Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for Me. You always have the poor with you, and you can do good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body in advance for burial. (Mark 14:6b-8 HCSB)
The disciple here was willing to serve the poor, but at this moment, Jesus had a different plan for the oil. He doesn’t condemn his willingness, He just helps them to see the good in what has just occurred.
If we as a church are unwilling to minister to the people in our congregations who have the same issues as those offenders we are bringing in through the CEO program, than something is horribly wrong. As the body of Christ, I truly believe, we are commanded to reach out to our community; having a broken arm makes this work a lot more difficult and sometimes impossible.
Until the church is willing to embrace the unwed mother and the drug addict and alcoholic and child molester and homosexual within her very walls, she has no place in trying to minister to those people with the same issues who happened to get caught outside her walls.
And that is where my heart is at right now. I am very disillusioned as regards the church at this time. I recently took a step of faith and did what I believe God was leading me to do and instead of embracing me and supporting me and lifting me up, I was sent away to find somewhere where they were willing to minister to me. This reminds me of another story that Jesus told.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me. ‘Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you didn’t take Me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of Me.’ “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’ “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’ “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matther 25:31-46 HCSB)