Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Jesus to be executed. One of those hurled insults at him. But the other said ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’. Luke 23:32
‘Death row’ can be a long and exhausting journey for those who find themselves on it. The appeal procedure can last years. When all other options have been explored, and the final hours approach; none of us can imagine the hopelessness that must be felt in those final hours. Thankfully in this country we don’t put people on death row. Thankfully through the gospel, hope is never exhausted. Jesus was crucified between two men who were ‘written off’’. There was no hope for them. Yet Jesus intervention changed one life for ever.
There are few people more fully written off by our society today than those convicted of sex offences. Condemned by society, insulted by fellow prisoners, written off for the rest of their lives – defined by a label that says to all intents and purposes they have ‘no hope’. Martin was considered such a case. He continually refused to co-operate with authorities in prison. He exasperated those who tried to work with him. He was treated with suspicion by those responsible for managing his release. And he was nearly written off by us. The risks seemed too great for us as a voluntary organisation to take on. But Martin wasn’t written off by Jesus. Martin describes his encounter with Jesus ‘as finding someone who loves me unconditionally. He loves me in all my chaos and mess, and is so committed to making something out of my life, that he sacrificed himself for me’.
That was the birth of hope within Martin. For the last few months we’ve been journeying with Martin as he has re-entered society post prison. He has navigated the difficulties of the labels, the slammed doors of job refusals, the tight restrictions of licence conditions and the condemning voices of his past. And he has done so with a grace and hope that could only come from the One who loves so unconditionally that He was willing to go to death row to save the ‘write offs’ of society.
Lord God, when we are tempted to give up, remind us again of the depth and length of your love for us, and renew our commitment to love the unlovely.