On Sunday, our mission speaker at all three services was the Executive Director of “Life Abundant,” a ministry to prisoners at Bucks County Prison. Trained Christian volunteers lead Bible studies and other programs, and, when requested, they meet one-on-one to form mentoring relationships with prisoners. After release, inmates are guided to continue growing in their faith through a connection to a local church. The goal, of course, is to help Christ change lives and bring hope to those who are feeling disenfranchised.
Monday morning, as I was drinking my coffee and reading the newspaper, I was reminded of the message of our mission speaker. The headlines told about the four people – three men and a woman – all four of them filthy and emaciated – who were imprisoned in a small “cage” in a sub-basement in Philadelphia. The perpetrators were apparently holding them captive in order to cash in on their Social Security & disability checks.
How disturbing! How inhumane! We wonder how one human being could commit such atrocities against another. What we hope for is quick justice, and that such criminals would be locked away never to see the light of day again.
But wait. What does GOD hope for?
My guess is that God hopes his people will find a way to offer his love, hope, and graciousness to EVERYONE – yes, even the most vile offender. Why? Because Christ didn’t just die for you and me – he died for EVERYONE; he died for the lost – especially those who have seriously lost their way in life – and I venture to guess that anyone who finds themselves in prison, regardless of the crime, qualifies as “lost”. So can we find it in our hearts to have compassion for prisoners and criminals, and to hope only the best for them? Of course, the best is Jesus Christ.
Prison ministry is not for everyone, that’s true. Within the church, we all have our special niche. But I hope that each time any of us read an especially disturbing news story, we’ll take a moment to bow our heads and pray – let’s pray for the victims, but let’s also pray for the offenders. We are all God’s beloved children.