We were standing on the prison “yard”, surrounded by the confining prison fence. The sun was blazing, but the hot yard was alive with activity. We were partnering with Gospel Echoes, another prison ministry, helping with a special lunch and singing as the entire prison population came out to the delicious smell of meat being prepared on the grills. After our time of singing, we were busy pouring lemonade as the men enjoyed their lunch, complete with homemade cookies. As I was talking to this particular young man, he asked me, “So can I ask you why you do prison ministry? Why would you come in to us like this?”
I explained that we’re all equally loved by God. We’ve all sinned and messed up in some way. And we continually need Jesus. I went on to say that we don’t feel as if we’re better than they are. They deserve to know about the amazing love and forgiveness of God. I explained how many of those within prison are more open to the gospel than those on the outside.
As he listened intently, he said, “Well, I just want to thank you, on behalf of all the men in here, for treating us like we’re humans. Thank you for what you do.” I was deeply touched by his grateful heart and the sincerity I saw in his eyes. He’d experienced the hurt caused by prison officials who saw him as an animal, unworthy of forgiveness, love, or a second chance. Society has branded him and he’s probably faced rejection from family or friends.
Being human doesn’t mean being perfect, in fact, being human means we are a sinful, fallen being. None of us are worthy to be loved by God, yet we are. Deeply. Because, in spite of being sinful, we are also created in God’s own image. Each of us carry the Creator God’s mark of ownership. How amazing is that?
When we hear of some of the crimes that people commit, it’s easy for us to think that this person isn’t even human. After all, how could a human being do something this horrendous? My friend, apart from us being closely connected with God, we are all capable of the same things. Those behind bars are just as valuable to God as you are, and they possess an eternal soul. Although they need to face the charges and consequences of their actions, they still need to be loved. By God…and by you and I. Love is the only thing that can reach and change them.
As I thought about the words of this young man, I was challenged. Because of the hurt in his eyes. I remembered seeing that look somewhere before…
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been guilty too many times of causing that same hurt to others. Of treating them as if they’re not as important as I am. It’s an ugly attitude, but we’ve all been guilty of it.
When my little girls fight and accidentally spill something all over my clean floor, how do I respond? How many times have I wounded my older daughters by a curt or cutting word? Or maybe I’ve said something belittling to my husband…
The next time you or I are tempted to look down on someone with a belittling attitude or respond in a wrong way, let’s take care of the pharisaical attitude in our lives. The attitude that causes us to treat others as if they’re not quite human, while we raise ourselves to the elevated position above humanity.
Since every person is created in God’s image, we should be loved and treated with respect. Not because we deserve it, but because we have the very breath of God within us. Think about it! God has breathed into each of us His own life giving breath…Including the tattooed and rough-looking men serving time behind bars. Including that person in your life you’re struggling to forgive and love.
Reach above humanity and do the supernatural today…love deeply, respond graciously, and forgive freely.
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:3-5)
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)