In this series, we explore the meaning behind Prison Fellowship’s tagline: Seek justice. Love mercy. Restore hope.
Mercy is the beating heart of the Prison Fellowship® story. As a new Christian, Chuck Colson voluntarily pled guilty to obstruction of justice in 1974 and served seven months in Alabama’s Maxwell Prison for his part in the Watergate scandal. But even after he was released, he never really left his experience behind.
In his best-selling memoir, Born Again, Chuck wrote, “I found myself increasingly drawn to the idea that God had put me in prison for a purpose and that I should do something for those I had left behind.” Having received God’s mercy in such abundance, he felt compelled to introduce as many people as he could to the wonder of a life redeemed in Jesus Christ. In that way, his journey resembled that of the apostle Paul, a former persecutor of the early Church, who wrote,
"Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life."
Every follower of Christ, no matter their history, is part of the same story.
Having received mercy, our purpose is now to share it. Prison Fellowship is founded on the conviction that all people are created in God's image and that no life is beyond God's reach. He can make even the most broken people and situations whole again.
But what does it mean for us to love mercy—to truly embrace God’s heart toward those impacted by the criminal justice system?
In Micah 6:8, God’s call to “love mercy” uses the Hebrew word hesed, meaning God’s unconditional loving kindness and compassion, including but not limited to His forgiveness of sin. Mercy can also refer to a victim’s decision to offer forgiveness or a governor’s decision to offer a pardon for someone convicted of a crime. And these are not the only pictures of mercy that we see in our work with those impacted by crime and incarceration. We seek a restorative system so that people who commit crimes are transformed, creating fewer victims in the future.
Walking with men and women in prison, we see how often they—and even their families—are stigmatized and pushed to the margins of society. Even in some churches, families of the incarcerated or people with a criminal history feel less than welcome.
Loving mercy means that we reach out to those in prison with the message of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness in Christ—the same forgiveness we have received ourselves.
We share God’s Word, knowing that the truth has the power to set people free. Through His mercy, even the darkest cell can be the site of beautiful redemption. The long years of a prison sentence can be transformed into an experience of repentance, healing, and preparation for a life of hope and purpose.
Loving mercy means that we reach out to families of the incarcerated with special attention and love. We are called to draw close to the brokenhearted with compassion instead of judgment for their circumstances, so we can provide pathways to repair and strengthen relationships harmed by incarceration.
Mercy is at the heart of God’s plan to redeem the world. It’s why Prison Fellowship and our partners are committed to extending His lovingkindness where it’s so desperately needed. We have all been saved and sustained by God’s mercy. It’s our calling now to share that love whenever we have the opportunity.
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD
When terms of community supervision are unjustly long, or conditions are too restrictive, we waste human potential, perpetuate the cycle of crime, and erode family stability. Act now and ask your governor to make community supervision more effective.
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