It is interesting how our concept of a prisoner is so two sided. On the one hand we view those who we think have been properly condemned for a crime as an unredeemable miscreant who justly deserves to be scorned and incarcerated. On the other hand, we see others prisoners as people who were wrongly persecuted by powerful but evil forces. Thus prisoners can be alternately, very good or very bad.
Pointedly, in Matthew 25 with Jesus’ account of the great judgment, those being judged are said to be measured by how they treated those in prison, those outside their own group, i.e. strangers, as well as those in dire physical need. Do we assume that the prisoners in this passage were only those wrongly imprisoned in our eyes, or does prisoner have a broader reach?
As Christians we might want to consider this question very seriously. In our society there is a great tendency to revile any who have been imprisoned, considering their fate and wellbeing to be of little or no concern to good citizens, including the average church member. In fact, many see a divine mandate to persecute former prisoners and never give them a second thought, except to condemn and eternally ostracize them.
In a very real sense, Jesus considered all of us to be prisoners, imprisoned by erroneous assumptions and attitudes about our God relationship and our connection to one another as human beings. Jesus came to set mankind free from such thinking. We won’t ever be free though, as long as we relish imprisoning others. It’s one thing to regretfully segregate the egregiously harmful from society and another to glory in hammering every malefactor like we ourselves are perfectly righteous. Please visit us at www.sjolanderroadfellowship.com.