A lot of times, we as Christians, subconsciously judge whether or not a person will ever be receptive of God’s grace, because of our self-righteous hearts. We look at the guy with the do-rag, tattoos, and sagging pants and say “there is no way that God could or would ever save him.” We think the way certain people talk, the way they look, and the way they think prevents them from ever trusting their eternal security in Jesus Christ.
This judgmental behavior not only speaks negatively about our own personal character, but it also defames the gospel of unconditional forgiveness that was preached by Jesus. I am not saying these things in order to attack the behaviors of others, but I am saying this to confess of my own wicked heart and judgmental demeanor. My prayer through this article is to open all of our eyes to the gospel’s ability to save and transform anyone, regardless of who they are and what they’ve done in the past. Also, I hope to provide an answer to the age old question that was posed by the late, great Tupac Shakur when he asked, “Can a thug make it into heaven?”
The True Gospel
If I were to point to one Bible verse in order to summarize the entire work of Jesus Christ, it would be Luke 19:10 which say, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (ESV).” What this verse is saying is that Jesus’ sole mission on Earth was to bring hope, salvation, and life transformation to the murderers, drug dealers, prostitutes, fornicators, thieves, adulterers, liars, and all who are far off from God. Yet many people struggle to accept this truth. They look at their past filled with fornication, drunkenness, drug abuse, and gang banging and think God will never forgive them until they can somehow manage to work their way back to him. But Jesus proved these things to not be true.
As Jesus was being crucified, beside him were two other criminals who were also being crucified. These two men weren’t some common pickpockets. They were the typical men on death row, criminals who probably lived in reckless and sinful rebellion to God. Yet with his last words, one of these criminals humbly gazed upon Jesus, confessed his sins to him, and trusted in him as his Lord and Savior. Jesus then said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43 ESV) which meant that he forgave everything this criminal has done, because he repented of his sins and put his faith in Christ.
This life-changing experience is not only something that was written in the Bible 2000 years ago, but it was something that I personally experienced and get to see others experience.
One day while I was at work, a man came in to volunteer around the building. From his entire demeanor I knew that he was raised in the hood and had gone through some pain in his life. When I looked at him, I said to myself, “How in the world am I going to share the gospel with this man? We are two totally different people and there is no way that he would ever listen to me or care about my God.” After praying for the boldness to talk to him; the very next day God made it possible.
As this man and I began to sit down and talk, he began to share with me the difficulties of his life and how after being put in prison, he felt like he was a complete failure. He told me that he made a lot of mistakes in his past and how he didn’t know how to move forward. As I was diligently listening to his words, I began praying to God for the words to say that would give him the answers he was looking for. I then began to share with him the beauty of the gospel and how God saves and forgives people from all of their past, present, and future sins.
Even though we all have turned from God, if we accept what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross, he promises to never leave us or forsake us. I told him that Jesus never promised that life would be easy, and we all fall on the journey to the narrow path, but God has us no matter what happens, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as we continue to press forward towards the goal.
As soon as I finished unpacking the gospel, this man left our conversation with a new smile and new walk. He left assured that he, a man who is blackballed by society due to his past of crime and violence, is now righteous, blameless, and loved by the God of the universe due to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
Heaven is for Everyone
So yes Tupac, a thug can make it into heaven. Because of Jesus, anyone, no matter of their past or present sins, can be made right with God and receive eternal life, even a thug. As long as they repent of their sin and accept Jesus as their Savior. The beauty of the gospel is that God’s love for us isn’t based upon what we have done in our past, but what Jesus has done for us on the cross. To know that we serve a God of grace, forgiveness, and mercy should give security and hope for all those who have strayed away from the path.
I pray that this article will not only encourage those with a troubled past to know that God can and will forgive them if they trust in Jesus, but also that it challenges us to never discredit anyone for salvation because of our own narrow-minded judgmental views, since we were all at one point the “thug” in need of grace.
Are you guilty of already writing someone off as ‘not being able to share the gospel with them,’ because of how they look or where they may be from?