How do people know when the Kingdom of God is in their midst? Most often, it’s when they see love in action. But how we do this needs careful thought.
I remember as a kid going with my family to deliver Thanksgiving turkeys to needy families. The families were genuinely grateful, but in so many homes, the dad either wasn’t at home or refused to come out of the back room. I figured, and it’s probably true, that the dad felt ashamed that the family had been given what he couldn’t provide.
Now these families needed the food and a reason to be thankful at Thanksgiving. But I always walked away a little sad, and even uncomfortable.
I thank God churches around the country step out of their comfort zone to do works of charity like food delivery. And I hope your church will be involved somehow this holiday season. But let’s be sure our good intentions don’t have unintended consequences of dividing family relationships, or even enabling destructive behaviors.
The Gospel offers a framework for helping others by clearly identifying the human condition and our deepest needs. In fact, the Apostle Paul described the Gospel and its impact most often by using “re” words like repentance, renewal, restoration, redemption, and my favorite: reconciliation.
Reconciliation has to do with repairing relationships that have been broken — both with God and with others. This Christmas, you and your church can make the invisible kingdom visible for families of the incarcerated through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program. Angel Tree is about so much more than providing gifts. It’s about reconciling the families of prisoners, and we need your help badly this year.
Angel Tree is simple: Incarcerated parents sign up their children to receive Christmas gifts. Church volunteers in the name of Jesus, and on behalf of the parents, deliver these gifts. What makes Angel Tree so distinct is not only that children, many of whom would have no Christmas otherwise, receive a basketball or a doll. It’s because the gift they receive is from daddy or mommy. These kids know that even though mom or dad is behind bars, they are loved and not forgotten.
And for many men and women in prison, Angel Tree is their one shot to show love to their kids in a tangible way at Christmas. It’s no wonder so many of them begin attending Bible studies or worship services. They see what the Kingdom looks like, and they want to see more.
Chuck Colson loved to tell how hardened prisoners, moved by the love and generosity of Angel Tree volunteers for their kids, repented and embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
And the benefit for churches? If your church signs up to deliver Angel Tree gifts, you will see first-hand the fruits of the Kingdom: restoration, renewal, and reconciliation. You’ll see transformed lives.
To sign up your church or to volunteer, call 1-800-55-ANGEL. Or go to AngelTree.org. My wife and I just signed up our own church for Angel Tree this Christmas.
And I want you to hear more about the Kingdom work of Angel Tree. This weekend, listen to “BreakPoint This Week.” I talk with Prison Fellowship president Garland Hunt about the power of reconciliation. And I talk with the former bank robber who started Angel Tree almost 40 years ago, Mary Kay Beard. She’s an absolute trip, and she once decorated the FBI most-wanted posters. Thanks to her vision, some 9 million children of prisoners have received a Christmas gift through Angel Tree.
That’s on “BreakPoint This Week.” Come to BreakPoint.org, click on the “This Week” tab, and listen in.
But most of all, please, sign up your church for Angel Tree. Call 1-800-55-Angel.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: November 2, 2012