Monday, November 30, 2009

'Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful'

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful -Luke 6:36

I never expected to come across a post idea during my usual after class routine. I check my emails, Facebook, and the news. On usatoday.com, there was an article that caught my eye: "Inmates assist ill and dying fellow prisoners in hospices."

Whoa, I thought. Some pretty powerful and wonderful things are happening...in prisons of all places. A prison was one of the last places I expected to be a house of compassion for others. Inmates were one of the last groups of people that I had ever expected to display and practice Christlike behavior. It's funny how God does things like that...blow your mind away and you find that all of your previously held expectations mean nothing. When it is a negative turning into a positive, I like it when that happens.

Anyway, the article is about hospice programs in prisons. Inmates, most of them "lifers", help take care of other inmates: the elderly, sick, and dying ones. They go through training and receive basic hospice care information, and then they take that knowledge and compassion for others and help out their fellow man.

Some of these inmates have committed murder. Some are in life for multiple armed robberies and whatever else constitutes life imprisonment. I know that what they did to end up in prison is wrong and they need to be punished. They also, however, deserve forgiveness. Doing good things to try and be good again isn't the only step to righting wrongs, but I'm not a judge. Only God can do that. I do feel that what some inmates are doing is beautiful, and I think God is pleased with the good work, love, and compassion that is very evident through these inmate hospice programs. Mercy is a powerful thing. If we could be merciful to others like the Father is merciful to us, the world would be a kinder place I think.

Prisoners are on the bottom of the societal hierarchy. Not many people care about them or even give them a second thought. I'm guilty of that too. So they can only rely on themselves and each other for help. Look at what has happened! I learned that prison isn't full of fights and shady deals and dark cells. There is peace, light, and compassion inside too. Sometimes the bad is bigger than the good, and the good is hidden away.

One inmate, Ted Durbin, "b
athes them, provides other personal care and often squeezes skeletal hands as their bodies succumb to shriveled livers or stomach cancer. It's the best job he has ever had, he said."

Durbin's quote ended the article. "'This program has brought me to my own existence, my own humanity. When I was young, I didn't care about nothing. This gives me something to care about.'"

How awesome is that? God sure opened my eyes today. Read the full, wonderful article here. After I read the article, I thought of the following Gospel passage from Matthew 25: 34-46. It is one of my favorites and a good passage to meditate upon:

"Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they will also answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

4 comments:

s-p said...

This is beautiful, Ashley. Thanks for sharing it. If such people can learn to love like this, no one is beyond the hope of salvation.

Rachel M said...

I think this is right on! People often look at the surface of what others have done and forget that there is a lot more to them than that alone. God sees the insides of these men and perhaps He is using this to soften once hardened hearts as a step in the process of bring them home to Himself.

It's also a wonderful example to the rest of us who tend to NOT show as much love and care even in little ways to our "neighbor" or even members of our own families and yet call ourselves "good" or think of ourselves as "better than a criminal".

Ashley Siferd said...

s-p: I completely agree! I had to share it; it's such a great story.

Rachel: It is a very good example. I think sometimes we all just have a hard time finding the good in bad things, but God doesn't! Thanks for the input :)

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Thanks, Ashley. That's a great story. Personally, I don't believe that there are bad people. We are all part of Christ's body, and as the scripture says, God shines His love upon the just and unjust (or something like that -- I am sure I am garbling it since I did not take the time to look it up). I do believe that there are people who do bad things, but there is a difference between a person and an action. I like to believe that there is always something good within everything although it may take God's help to see it or to bring it to the surface. Sounds like God has been actively working in that prison.