We are praying that the bandits and “bad guys” in our neighborhood will become the next generation of missionaries, pastors and leaders. They have a lot of things going for them.
1. They crave adventure.
2. They long for a few good friends.
3. They do not put a high value on their lives.
4. They have the chance to be “forgiven much”, and so it will be easier for them to “love much”.
5. They are reaping the wages of their sinful lives even here on this earth, and things will get worse for them if they stay on their current track.
Nilton Cordeiro, who has personally planted more churches than anyone else I know, told me that the darker the region, the easier churches are to plant. “People get so tired of prostitution, crime, fear, greed and wickedness”.
Jesus taught how the prostitute loved God more than one of the “pastors” of His day. “He who is forgiven much loves much, but he who is forgiven little loves little”. It is our perception of how much we have been forgiven that is really important. This perception has a direct relation to how much we are able to minister to others out of true compassion. Significant time alone with Jesus gives us all the capacity to “love greatly”.
Moses the Black is one of the early church fathers. He lived from 330 A.D. to 405 A.D. His writings are still studied today. Here is a quote from Wikipedia.
“Moses was a slave of a government official in Egypt who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a gang of bandits who roamed the Nile Valley spreading terror and violence. He was a large, imposing figure.”
“On one occasion, a barking dog prevented Moses from carrying out a robbery, so he swore vengeance on the owner. Weapons in his mouth, Moses swam the river toward the owner’s hut. The owner, again alerted, hid, and the frustrated Moses took some of his sheep to slaughter. Attempting to hide from local authorities, he took shelter with some monks in a colony in the desert of Scetes, near Alexandria. The dedication of their lives, as well as their peace and contentment, influenced Moses deeply. He soon gave up his old way of life, became a Christian, was baptized and joined the monastic community at Scetes.”
“Moses had a rather difficult time adjusting to regular monastic discipline. His flair for adventure remained with him. Attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, Moses fought back, overpowered the intruders, and dragged them to the chapel where the other monks were at prayer. He told the brothers that he didn’t think it Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them. The overwhelmed robbers repented, were converted, and themselves joined the community.”
“Moses was zealous in all he did, but became discouraged when he concluded he was not perfect enough. Early one morning, Saint Isidore, abbot of the monastery, took Moses to the roof and together they watched the first rays of dawn come over the horizon. Isidore told Moses, “Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.”
“When a brother committed a fault and Moses was invited to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, Moses took a leaking jug filled with water and carried it on his shoulder. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the jug. He replied, “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk.” End of quote.