Do news reports of violence and terrorism leave you in a perpetual state of shock and despair? Perhaps those who do violence to others are open to change and redemption. We’d like to think so, wouldn’t we? Could the simple statement “You are a child of God?” prevent a man from killing? My colleague, Eric Nelson, writing for the October 6, 2017 edition of Communities Digital News, shares a hopeful story of an prison inmate who heard that message and it set him on a new path. This same message helped a man whose family was being threatened by a gang member. Here’s Eric to fill in the details:
Roger (not his real name) was an inmate in a Pennsylvania jail when my friend Dave met him. Dave, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from California, was there to give a ministerial talk as a representative of the local Christian Science Church.
“After my talk, Roger, a great big guy, came up to me and said, ’Man, you really messed me up,’ said Dave as we were having lunch one afternoon. “He said, ‘You were talking about what it means to be a child of God. That’s who I am.’ Then he said, ‘I want to tell you, before this talk, they brought a guy into the jail, and he and I have had this thing going on out on the street back and forth, and I said to myself, I’m going to kill him. Today’s the day. I don’t care what happens to me, we’re going to end this thing, right here, right now.’”
All Dave could do was keep listening.
“He said, ’And then for some reason, I decided to come hear this stupid talk. And now I’ve got to go back to my cell, and I’ve got to think about myself as a child of God and what that means, and I’ve got to think about him that way too, don’t I?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you do.’ By this time, tears were streaming down his face. He gave me a big bear hug and he says, ‘Thanks for messing me up, man.’”
Would that more people could be “messed up” like this.
The truth is, there are probably a lot more people open to this sort of transformation than we think….