Why Go to Jail?
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison . . . Hebrews 10:32-33
Recently, a buddy and I were allowed back into our local jail for Sunday morning Bible study. For over two years, we weren’t allowed because of Covid-19 restrictions, but now we’re back. During our first meeting, one of the guys talked about how he had prayed and submitted a kite (internal jail request) for a church service. He’d done this just three days prior to our arrival, not knowing that we were coming. We were his answer to prayer. That was a humbling experience – realizing that God used us as an answer to his prayer and his needs.
So why do we go? Scott from 20 years ago would have had little interest in jail. If you’d have asked me about the incarcerated, my only thought would have been that they deserved it. I can still acknowledge that they may deserve to be there, but now, because of my own life experiences and failures, I also have compassion for them. Because I’ve found faith and recovery, I want to share Christ’s transformation with those in need. Everyone needs God, but not everyone sees it. Most of those in jail though, know exactly what a mess they are. So, I go because I’ve made mistakes and because I know that many of those in jail will be receptive to a message of radical change.
In today’s passage, the author of Hebrews reminded his audience of where they’d once been. They’d experienced life struggles and because of that, they had compassion for others who were struggling. Their life experiences made them sympathetic to those around them.
We don’t all have personal experience with addiction and recovery and we don’t all need to volunteer at the local jail. We do however, all have life experiences that should make us compassionate to those around us. Often, when we see others struggling, it’s easy to simply say, They deserve it. They’ve made poor choices. They probably have made poor choices, but so have we. We may not have all made the same mistakes, but we’ve all failed in some way. We may find ourselves superior to others, but when we stand before God, we’re not much different than the guy in jail. If we think we are, then we’re guilty of perhaps the worst sin – a blinding pride.
We’ve all had struggles. If we’re willing, God can use our struggles to reach those around us. When we’re humble and obedient, we can all be an answer to someone’s prayer.