Today I spent a couple of hours visiting a guy friend in prison.
He is serving a three year sentence (hoping to only serve 18 months) on a bunch of (non-violent) charges.
While I was going through the process of getting through security (not easy) I was struck by this 6 year old boy named Tyrone. He was there (presumably) with his mother, visiting his father.
This kid was adorable — and noticeably excited for the visit.
I was struck by two things: (1) it is tragic that a 6 year old to have to visit his father in a prison; (2) Tyrone was unaware of this tragedy as he was just excited to see his dad. Quite a juxtaposition.
Why do I visit people in prison? Because Jesus commands me to.
When you read the gospels, you cannot escape that Jesus’ ministry was very much focused on the LOST, LEAST & LONELY. You could add to that the FORGOTTEN, MARGINALIZED, CONDEMNED & JUDGED.
And in our society, who are some of the most LOST, LEAST, LONELY, FORGOTTEN, MARGINALIZED, CONDEMNED & JUDGED? Prisoners.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)
There is a lot in the Bible that is hard to understand or open to multiple interpretations. This passage is not one of them. Jesus is abundantly clear. We are to love and serve the LOST, LEAST & LONELY no matter what — no matter the cost, no matter their response, no matter the inconvenience.
And that is why I visit prisoners… because not only does Jesus command it, but he expects it. And according to Him, what I really did today was VISIT HIM.
How are you loving the LOST, LEAST & LONELY this Advent Season?