In a previous blog I told the true story of "Jane" and her father "John", real people with fictitious names whom we have been privileged to assist in the reentry and transition preparation process. As this is written we are all facing a very happy Easter celebration as we reflect on the work God has done in these hearts to bring about a healing of relationships.
As you might know, not all inmates are so fortunate. Rejection, shame, disrespect and various forms of disownership are far more frequent.. It takes a special brand of heart to love an inmate . . . or any other sinner for that matter. The Apostle Paul told his "son in the faith" Timothy that some men's sins go before them and some men's sins follow after (paraphrase). In a modern context Paul might have written, "the sins of some are very public while others get to hide their sins for a while." The sins of inmates are guaranteed to become very public and widely known indeed. And the record is permanent.
Thus, for those readers who celebrate Easter I have a friendly challenge: in view of the cross and its impact on your own life, are you open to loving a convicted criminal, even one you may never meet? If so, I have some practical steps you may take.
First, consider that if we have tasted the forgiveness of God personally we have been given a heart transplant. The new heart is fashioned after His own. Therefore, it becomes not only possible, but imperative that we love what He loves. That would include sinners.
Second, the consistent practice of Christ during his ministry as recorded in Scripture and continuing to this day is to seek out and draw the most unlikely of sinners to Himself. Not the rich and powerful (though they are not excluded), the politically connected, the pure and clean (of which there are none!), but sinners. Jesus was repeatedly condemned for having constant contact with and building relationships with well-known sinners. Are we to do less?
Finally, loving sinners is dangerous work. It may get you killed. Jim Elliott, Nate Saint, and 3 other young men went to love the Auca Indians in an Ecuadorian jungle and never came out alive, though they did not die in vain. Their widows went back to the same tribe and led the very chief to Christ who had ordered the murder of their husbands. Every day Christians around the world give their lives because they are unashamed friends of Jesus.
I count as heroes those who leave the comfort of home to live in a foreign culture in obedience to their calling to love those who have never heard the good news. Yet, there are inmates, both men and women, who may live in a "gated community" in your own town or county whose hearts would melt if they knew someone like you would love them. A simple PrayerPal card from you and supplied by this ministry has proven to make a huge difference in the lives of some of these forgotten sinners.
As you celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the new life offered by His sacrifice, grace and mercy, consider becoming a conduit of those gifts to those living in a dark place and in desperate need of light. visit www.inmateministryresources.com and ask for information on becoming a volunteer PrayerPal.. As Christ promised, you will get back far more than you give in love to these hurting folks.
The tomb is empty. Prisons and jails worldwide are full.. You could be a bridge between the two.