By Jessica Brodie
When a young man or woman goes to prison, it’s not just their problem or their families’—it’s everyone’s.
Forget the actual monetary cost, which itself is staggering. The price they pay affects their future, as well as their community’s future. Often it can perpetuate a cycle of poor choices and bad habits. After all, their punishment doesn’t end when they finish their sentence. Often they are haunted by their mistakes forever. It goes on their permanent record; they no longer have some of the access or rights the rest of the world has. And getting a job—particularly a decent job—is far more difficult.
Keeping people out of prison is not about being “soft” on crime or altering laws. It’s about coming together as a responsible and loving community before crimes occur. It’s standing with our young people before they walk down the wrong path or begin to make poor choices. It’s coming alongside them with accountable mentoring relationships that expose them to positive life models and high expectations.
It’s supporting them and encouraging them to stay in school, helping them master reading and other difficulties, tutoring them if they fall behind—staying right there with them whatever it takes.
Sometimes we live as if we are only responsible for ourselves. We mistakenly live our lives like we’re little Christian islands floating in the sea, just us and the Lord. But we are not only responsible for ourselves. Jesus commands us to first love God and then love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40).
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, the Apostle Paul elaborates on this collective love we are to have for others, likening us all as part of Christ’s body—some hands, some feet, some ears.
But in many of our communities, our legs are floundering. Our elbows are faltering. Our eyes are weakening.
In this month’s front-page article, “Cumberland UMC Anti-Incarceration Weekend Aims to Keep Young Men on Right Path,” we get a powerful witness of how one church in Florence is stepping up to make sure the full body of Christ is insulated, encouraged, loved and supported.
Think and pray on this witness. Is there something you can be doing in your own community to support the rest of Christ’s body? Remember: We are called to help each other and love each other, whether that’s feeding the hungry, spreading the Gospel... or keeping our neighbor from going to prison.
By Jessica Brodie