It is undeniable that we live in a broken society. News headlines shout daily the crimes and illegal behavior that exist in our large urban centers and small towns. Earlier this week we saw evil manifest itself in terror and tragedy in Las Vegas, a blow to our country's morale, already battered by hurricanes and floods, politics, and societal tensions.
For the Christian, the call to be salt and light in the midst of such darkness can seem overwhelming. And yet, the Church is uniquely positioned to have a profound and lasting impact on the surrounding culture. Including the criminal justice system.
"Our belief in the inherent dignity of every human being should encourage us to act," writes Heather Rice-Minus, Prison Fellowship®'s vice president of government affairs, in an article for Christianity Today. "If we are all created in the image of God, then we must seek a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all."
How can we as the Church respond to the needs of our world, while remembering those of our brothers and sisters behind bars?
BECOME A PRAYER WARRIOR
Men and women in prison struggle with many of the same things that Christians on the outside struggle with: fear, temptation, loneliness, illness, concern for unbelieving loved ones. If you haven't joined it yet, Prison Fellowship has created an interactive online forum where thousands of believers from across the country receive daily prayer requests and offer up prayers for incarcerated brothers and sisters.
SUPPORT FAMILIES OF PRISONERS
For the 2.7 million children in the United States with at least one parent behind bars, the challenges of growing up are magnified. These kids can struggle with feelings of abandonment and loneliness, and often get caught in the same cycle of crime that sent their parents to prison.
Through programs like Angel Tree®, Christians can attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of these families, and show them the love of Christ in very real and tangible ways.
With God's help, families can be restored, and the cycle of crime and incarceration can be replaced by a cycle of renewal and a hope for the future.
The hurricanes that have plagued our country for the past couple of months will have affected Angel Tree children and their families. Help us remember these children and partner with us to support them this holiday season. Find out how here.
ADVOCATE FOR JUSTICE THAT RESTORES
In Micah 6:8, we are told that God requires his followers to "act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." How can we do this?
We Can Advocate for Sentencing Reform
When punishments are proportionate to the crimes committed, justice is done. Seeking alternatives to incarceration that are more effective in rehabilitating those who commit crimes, while also working to restore victims and communities that have been harmed reflects the mercy displayed by God through Jesus and the value all lives have in His eyes.
We Can Welcome Returning Citizens into Our Churches and Communities
For many men and women leaving prison, their punishment extends well beyond the prison gate. Systematic barriers to reintegration keep these individuals from becoming productive and contributing members of society, long after their sentences have been completed.
Christians can and should work for the restoration of the formerly incarcerated, welcoming them into their churches and communities, providing them with opportunities to succeed, and working to remove the legal barriers and perceptions that prevent them from truly reintegrating.
Learn how you and your faith community can petition our leaders to push for reforms that transform those responsible for crime, validate victims, and create a safe, redemptive, and just society.
In the midst of a fallen and broken world, Christians are called to be the Church and proclaim Christ in thought, word, and deed. The criminal justice system, and all the lives that are impacted by it, provides great opportunities for such a proclamation.
Originally published by Steve Rempe.
Updated October 2017 by Prison Fellowship.