We all deserve forgiveness
There are times in our history when certain decisions go from being landmark decisions to ground breaking decisions. Decisions which shake the very ground that we stand on are decisions that open doors for many who those doors have been closed and bolted. Since the passing of Prop 47, which requires misdemeanor sentence instead of felony for certain drug and property offenses, there has been an awaking in our communities and churches. Specifically in Saint Rest Baptist Church, which sits in the heart of West Fresno, a community riddled with people who are treated as second class citizens, are now seeing a glimpse of hope. Prop 47 has given many who struggled in the past, to be blessed with a future. These brothers and sisters’ convictions, most black and brown, are now reclassified as misdemeanors, but because of a felony on their record and their charge was a simple drug possession, petty theft under 950 dollars, or receipt of stolen property under 950 dollars. This prevented them from getting job. One member, a 47 year old man, who had served his time, paid his debt to society for a drug charge, struggled every day with a crooked system. How can a 47 year old man, clean and sober for over 10 years, still struggle with getting a job? He completed his drug program, had now become a drug and alcohol counselor at a men’s home in Fresno, completed his undergraduate studies, but could not get a job in the field of his choice because of his record. The days spent in my office watching and hearing this brother cry because he was unable to get his grandson a gift, or not able to treat his fiancé to a date, or even feel like a man who works, wore us thin. Yes he had made a mistake but that does not mean he is the mistake. We preach “All have sinned and fallen short,” and if this is what we preach, he too deserves forgiveness. The only difference from him to any of us is that he was caught and I was not. Once Prop 47 passed, we were able to take him to our county courthouse and submit a change your record form. Today he is working closer to the field of his choice and the change in his attitude about life and himself is greater than ever.
This is just a small sample of many who have been affected by Prop 47. There are children in our community who will see schools built instead of prisons. Families have been reunited with loved ones and the church has been able to serve many because of Prop 47. This is a ground breaking decision that has shook the very foundation that this generation is standing on. In Acts 12 it speaks of a man named Peter convicted of a felony, locked in prison but Heaven saw his reclassification status a man not a prisoner, and there in prison an earthquake shook the doors of the prison open. Prop 47 has reclassified prisoner to men and women, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and an earthquake has shook the doors of discrimination, injustice, and a lifetime label off.
Pastor D.J. Criner
Faith in Community/Saint Rest Baptist Church Fresno, CA