And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen… 2 Cor 1:28
Brother E. preached and the prisoners listened. Some mouths were open, some clamped tightly shut but no one fidgeted and every eye was fixed on him. Brother E's words hit them like bullets that no armor could stop. Their effect was so apparent that I could hear the thud each made as it penetrated their hearts. Their eyes, many filling with tears, broadcast their thoughts; I need to change, each said. God was speaking through Brother E.
People ask me why I co-founded 7-70. The question often comes with an attitude of moderate disbelief. Why should anyone care about criminals? I refer them to Matthew 2:17 and after, many say, "That's special. But I would never help them. They made their choices and deserve the consequences." Their responses reinforce in me the truth that the world has thrown away these people. Prisoners are the despised ones Paul was referring to in his letter to the Corinthians.
But why would God choose the despised? Watching Brother E and the work God was doing through him demonstrates the answer because Brother E was one of the despised. A few years before, he sat on those very benches where the prisoners sat, listening to another preach. Before his conversion he was involved in gangs and drugs, in and out of jail, costing taxpayers money for his upkeep and defense. But, God changed his life. He is no longer liability on the city. Now he had a wife, a job and respect as a leader in a church.
Brother E. knew what it was like to live on the street in south Chicago. This made his words about repentance, real, not some abstract idea that only those who grow up with money believe in.
There is power in the base things. Each of these men sitting on the benches listening to Brother E is a potential Brother E. Each has the ability and God given gift to affect the lives of other men on other benches in other jails.
Brother E taught me that no one is worthless. He was an example of what Paul taught the Corinthians about the power of the base. All anyone had to do was watch the miracle that God was working through Brother E to realize how true that was.