THIS MORNING I STOOD in the parking lot outside Nebraska State Penitentiary with my friends Kyle and Leahh to pray for those in the prison system and those who work there. Half a dozen men lined the chain-link fence looking out at a world they may never be welcomed to enter again. My heart twisted up inside of me because I wanted to talk to them, to hear their story, to offer what freedom I could to them. But this is not permitted.
As we drove off, and even until now, a question won’t dislodge itself from my heart: “Why do we hide away the most broken among us?”
But I know why, at least I know why I’m OK with it. I can forget about them when they’re locked up, faceless and unseen. I can go on with my plans, my issues, my ideals, and my happiness much more effectively if I don’t know or see them.
Someone once said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19, NIV).
And then somewhere along His life He became a prisoner, He became a captive, and I think He knew it was coming because He laid out for all those who were (and are) willing to hear His words the same anointing. He also said, “I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matthew 25:36).
He said some other things as well, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that how we treat one another, anyone who’s made in the image of God, is a most important issue. It’s almost as if the love we have for God is primarily lived out by how we treat others.
The most broken among us.
Those different from us.
Those who hate.