The Story of James and Tony

There are two men standing at the gates of heaven to get in.

The first man James grew up in a tough neighborhood, his father left him when he was young and his mother worked three jobs just to get by.  Eventually he got caught up in the wrong crowd.  Instead of playing basketball, or football, instead of going to the library to study he was on the street corner with his “buddies.”  This led to many nights away from home, and his mother was constantly worried about him and his safety.  However, there was little that she could do, she felt like she already lost him and she was right.  On his 18th birthday he was told that had to pull a robbery with some of the new recruits.  This would solidify his membership in the gang.  This was the night that changed his life.  The robbery turned bad and he got caught.  He was brought to trial as an adult and sentenced to six years in jail.


The other man standing at the gates of heaven was Tony.  Now Tony grew up on the other side of town.  He had anything and everything he could ever ask for. However, he yearned for his family.  His father was an executive who worked all the time and his mother was a successful photographer who traveled a lot.  He knew his nanny better than his parents.

Christmas was a special time for Tony because his parents made sure they were home.  They hosted lots of parties so they could see all of their friends.  But they also had family time.  They went to church Christmas Eve and at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church then they went home and opened up presents while drinking hot chocolate.  Tony loved going to church because it was there that he experienced the kind of family that he always wanted.  He saw people who cared for one another, he had strangers come up to him with smiles on their face wishing him a Merry Christmas.  During church he watched as the children did a Christmas play about the birth of Jesus, he heard the words from the pastor that night telling him the wonders of Jesus’ birth and how that birth was important in the world because that child would grow up to change the world.  Each year Tony left church uplifted and hopeful and happy.  When Tony left church that Christmas night after he turned 18 his life was changed.  He knew he was going to college soon and he might not experience this feeling again.  So Tony left that night determined to change the world and to learn more about Jesus and his love.

Who would you consider a child of the wheat a child of the weeds? James or Tony?

James spent the first 4 years in prison trying to be the tough guy, he was in a lot of fights, spent a lot of time in “the hole” for his behavior.  At the start of his fifth year he was sitting in the dark of his cell and he started thinking about his life.  He was 23 years old and he had nothing to show for himself.  He had no friends, he had no family, he had nothing.  He cried to himself to sleep that night.  When he woke he was a changed man — still trying to figure things out he did not talk or look at anyone for the next week.  He started to reevaluate his life; how he acted and how he treated others.  Then he sat down and he wrote a letter to his mother.  He had not talked with her for  the last five years and he prayed that the letter would make it to her.  He requested a Bible from the prison chaplain and he started to read it.  James’ mother received his letter and she wrote back.  They exchanged letters for the next year and eventually she started to visit him.  She eventually moved to North Carolina where the prison was and she started to build a life for her and her son upon his release.  Six years after he walked into the prison he walked out a free man.  His mother was there to greet him and as soon as he walked out he saw her and they embraced.

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