A Familiar Figure In An Orange Jump Suit

by Rich Dixon on September 19, 2014

Do you REALLY believe what you believe?

BELGIUM-US-AMNESTY-GUANTANAMO-RIGHTSToday I’ll speak to a group of inmates at the Marathon County Detention Center. Yesterday we talked to kids at the Juvenile Detention Center.

I’ve addressed similar audiences before, and each time I experience the same haunting impressions. In June, 2009, I shared these thoughts.

# # #

As I spoke to those despondent young people I felt like I’d wandered into a warehouse of wasted potential.

My safe, comfortable church sits about three miles from the maze of iron bars at our local detention center, but it might as well be on a different planet. In one place we bow before God in familiar security. Just down the road, Jesus languishes in an orange jump suit.

I confess a fair amount of discomfort as I seek an appropriate response to this incongruous juxtaposition of worship and walls.

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Matthew 25:44-45

These aren’t the convenient Christians with whom I usually associate. I don’t know how to share Jesus with people caught in cycles of poverty, abuse, and addiction. I’d like to continue pretending that they’re not there, but the image of Jesus in an orange jump suit invades my cozy little world.

The question challenges my approach to this experience: Do you really believe what you believe? I suspect that the question is convicting because I understand that my choices and actions reflect my true faith.

How frequently do I turn my head, pretending not to see people who don’t fit into the tidy Christian box I’ve constructed? If I really believe what I claim to believe, why do I ignore Jesus when He appears in uncomfortable circumstances?

I believe God loves and uses broken people. Jesus lives within every heart, including the hearts of those who’ve chosen badly, made mistakes, and missed God’s mark. That premise is my only source of hope.

I don’t wish to discount the individual accountability of those young adults for the unacceptable choices they made. But something’s wrong when we conceal tens of thousands of broken children behind walls in every city and county, pretending that confining them fulfills our responsibility. This failed quest for security only perpetuates spirals of increasing pain and violence.

I claim God’s promise for myself, but I can’t simply be comfortable in my own salvation. I’m blessed to be a blessing, entrusted to enjoy God’s gifts and share them with others, including those who might make me uncomfortable.

Church sanctuaries and jail cells contain God’s broken children.

Those walls that hide people I’d like to ignore also conceal Jesus in an orange jump suit.

How do we move outside our comfort zone to see Jesus in places we’d rather ignore?

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Hope Described

by Rich Dixon on September 16, 2014

hope chalkboardHope …

Knows there’s light when all that’s visible is darkness.

Believes in possibility when confronted by impossibility.

Expects order to emerge from chaos.

Reaches out in the presence of isolation.

Seeks joy when surrounded by despair.

Accepts freedom even when buried by guilt.

Moves forward despite fear.

Perceives a remarkable future beyond the immediate obstacle.

Clings confidently to love when surrounded by hatred.

Trusts God to redeem struggle and pain and use all things for good.

Depends on God to keep His promises.

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