The young man made a huge mistake. In fact, he had broken the law. He was in trouble with a capital T. He didn’t know what to do. His family would be extremely disappointed. His church would be devastated. His reputation would be lost. His future was compromised. Suicide was not far from his thoughts.

There was one last grasp for help. If someone one, just one person would give a sense of hope maybe he could get through. The phone rang. As the last call for help went out he was relieved to hear the words, “I’ll be right there.”

The rest of the story is not easy. The police came. A prison sentence was given. A few years were lost behind bars. Friends ran away. Family avoided him. Rumors spread. After prison began the years of rebuilding. Jobs were scarce. Nobody wanted to hire an ex-con. The only encouragement was the one person who picked up the phone. Years later through each situation the same person would reply, “I’ll be right there.”

Entering the world of convicts and their family exposed a part of the world we tend to turn a blind eye. We assume it’s the “bad” people. We like to say, “They deserve it.” Television has made it out that people in prison are the scourge of society. Yes, many have problems. Yes, many have issues. Yes, many made decisions that were defined by depravity.

As the young man went through the process he discovered truth behind the sensationalism of media and statistics. There are families behind each convict. They suffer sometimes in ways that may be worse than the convict. The convict is guaranteed a bed and food. Families caught unaware (many are) will probably lose their home and main source of income.

He also discovered that there are many people in prison that aren’t “bad” guys. They are people who made some decisions often out of stress and “expectation.” Their decisions didn’t work out. Life got them. They failed. They don’t just pay their debt to society. Their sentence is a silent label. It follows them everywhere. Second chances…not in our society.

The one thing the young man discovers is the value of a true friend. The men who have these do have a future. They have hope. A friend who picked up the phone that first night is the friend that gets them through. The friend suffers. It takes time, money and a piece of their life to walk alongside a friend in trouble. Sometimes it costs more than we can imagine and I’m not talking money. It wouldn’t matter. Their love allows them years later to reply, “I’ll be right there.”

I’ve wondered why these types of people are not prevalent in our churches today. If there is a place for a second chance it’s church. The very essence of the body of Christ is the concept of redemption and grace. If it’s not found there, there is only one place it can be found…back in prison with the other convicts who didn’t have a friend who will reply, “I’ll be right there.”

I often consider what it means to be “like Christ.” The more I read the gospels there is a sense that we didn’t quite grasp that Christ was so much more than a moment of salvation. He is so much more than a good worship set at church. He is so much more than a really good 30-minute sermon or a “got ya” spiritual Facebook post. To be a disciple of Christ is to be Christ incarnate to the best of our ability. The way of Christ is more along the lines of a people stumbling around in the darkness and without question he promises, “I’ll be right there.”

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