First of all, I would like to ask another question. Why is ministry anywhere important? There are so many places we can go and so many things that we can do. Why do we do it? The answer is simple, but also profound. We do it because of our faith, to share Christ, to heal the wounded and brokenhearted, to serve others as Christ came to serve, to be ambassadors of the Kingdom in this dark and fallen world. Jesus called us feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to take in the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, and yes, even to visit those locked up in the prisons. And you know what? He didn’t qualify it. He didn’t say to clothe and feed the man who did everything right, but is just down on his luck. He didn’t say to take in the stranger if he speaks and dresses well, maybe smells good. He didn’t say to care for the sick or those in prison if, you know, maybe it’s not their fault they are sick, or because they were falsely accused or wrongfully convicted. He made it very plain and without conditions. When we do these things, these kind things and thoughtful things, to the least of these (the homeless, the vagabond, the HIV patient, the convicted criminal, etc.) we are doing it to Him.
Jesus Christ came to the earth, not to condemn, but to bring life. Not to steal, kill, destroy, but to give life, and life more abundantly. Speaking of those in prison, they have each allowed the devil (our true enemy) to affect their lives and the lives of others in horrendous ways. It was the devil’s plan to steal their hopes and dreams, the devil’s goal to kill their aspirations and ambitions, and the devil’s delight to destroy their reputations and their futures. But that was not Jesus’ plan, or goal, or delight. He came to give life and life more abundantly. Even to the prisoner. Paul said in Philippians 2:4-5 “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” We are to have the mind of Christ in all things. What He cares about, we should care about. His goals become our goals, His desires become our desires. Christ cares for the orphans, so I do. Christ cares for the homeless, so I do. Christ cares for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, so I do too. And Christ cares for the prisoner…so, what do I do? I do, too.
You know, I understand more that most the pain and suffering that many of these men and women have caused. But I also know that, but for God’s grace, I could be there, too. And so could most of you. One bad day, one bad hour, even one bad moment, and you could be the prisoner. Most of us just didn’t get caught. But our wonderful Lord, He didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us. He didn’t come to point a finger at our transgressions and sins and iniquities. He didn’t come to cast us away. He came to free us from those weights that so easily beset us. He came to break the chains of bondage and darkness, to set us free from the prisons we have found ourselves in. To cleanse our sin. His mercy renewing every day. The men and women incarcerated are no different from us. They desperately need our love, our compassion, and our commitment to share with them the love of Christ, the love that was shown to us. We need ministry in prison, now more than ever before. We need to be lights in dark places and prisons are very dark places. I can bring my candle, my little light, and I can banish a little bit of that darkness. But if you will come with me, and maybe bring a few friends, we can put our lights together and, pretty soon, if enough of us come, those dark places will be no more. We will light every nook, cranny, and corner of those prisons for Jesus. Jesus is encouraging us to let our lights shine.