I've thought long and hard about what to say in this post, or if I should say anything at all. Without knowing all the history or having a personal acquaintance with the people involved in this story, I'm fearful that readers might make a quick judgment about the circumstances and not see the point I want to make here. But I'm going to proceed anyway.
This past weekend my hubby and I, along with about 150 other folks, gathered for a most unusual celebration. We drove about two hours to get there, but others came from as far away as Florida. God surely smiled down upon this outdoor event, as He caused the weather to be perfect. We, and most other attendees, didn't even know the people whose house (and yard) we were at. There were even some in attendance who had never met the couple who were the object of the celebration.
So what was this all about and what was the common denominator here?
About five years ago, we attended the marriage ceremony of a wonderful young couple, the groom the son of good friends of ours. The wedding and reception were beautiful in every way--a warm, sunny day, a lovely old church, a brass orchestra, a fairy-tale like reception with a sit down dinner--the kind a guest would never forget. Off the newlyweds went to dreamland to live happily ever after!
Both recent (Christian) college graduates, the newly married couple soon embarked on their careers and settled in a new town, found a good church and made friends easily. Life was good.
But a secret sin was lurking in the background of the new husband. It involved an internet indiscretion, an activity that he had engaged in back in college days. The Federal government calls it a felony, and this young man was arrested at the public school where he was teaching. Literally overnight his life was changed forever. After a long, agonizing judicial process, he began serving out a nearly two year prison term in a Federal facility a state away from home.
We were so close to this situation and there are so many details that are impossible to retrace here, and that would only distract from what I really want to say anyway. What I want to proclaim loud and clear is this: When followers of Jesus Christ take His teachings to heart and put them into action, they are being the true Church, the true Body of Christ. There is nothing like it on earth that can compare to this reflection of His love, His compassion, His forgiveness.
Believers from many backgrounds and many geographical locations joined together unrelentingly for several years as members of that mystical Body, to love and support this young couple and their families. We held the tears of a heart-broken mother and father. We sent monthly checks to help support the young wife who was left alone during her husband's incarceration. We prayed around-the-clock for them. We visited; we sent letters of encouragement. They were ever on the hearts and minds of all of us who had the privilege of taking up this cross and helping to bear this burden.
Finally the day of freedom from prison came. Finally the couple would have a chance to celebrate and meet so many who had been there for them in their time of need. It was a day of rejoicing, a day for prayers of thanksgiving. A day that helped us all remember the unmatchable grace of God.
This precious couple still has a long road ahead of them. There is a time of probation and other legal restrictions. A new career path needs to be found. Trust needs to grow. A myriad of unknowns that may await. But God goes before them as they humbly walk with Him down a new path. And the Body of Christ on earth surrounds them. The way it is supposed to be.
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."