An early 1st century crowd heard this message live and in person. “Visit those in prison.” At the time, the justice system was violently skewed against anyone who seemed to threaten the church or state. Such a person may be hauled off to prison after a flogging or two and left there to die.
Ancient prisons in the Roman Empire were not what we call humane in 2019. Visiting prisoners meant to deliver food, water, clothing, and provide whatever else they may need. It was a high calling and test of true loyalty.
Addiction is a compulsive substance or habit use that one continues despite harmful consequences. People trapped in cycles of self-destruction via substance use or habit use, are prisoners of their minds. What is often not taken into consideration is the other side of those many stories. Self-medication is a likely backstory to many addictive behaviors.
If it is within our power to do so, treating an addicted person like anyone else (with the exception of enabling the addiction) is kind. Taking food to an addict who isn’t eating, or a blanket or clothes to one who is cold, is loving your neighbor as yourself. Obeying Jesus’ instruction to visit those in this kind of prison may look like listening, hugging them in their dirty clothes, and welcoming them despite strong odors.
A church my son served in had many such people enter each week. They were not pristine. They did not try to act as if everything was alright. They wore their needs on their sleeves, so to speak.
They were welcomed, not interrogated. No matter who anyone was, food, clothes, haircuts, and the Word of God were freely and enthusiastically offered. The dress code was basic – wear clothes.
In visiting the church, I encountered alcoholics, people with mental illness who could not afford treatment, and people struggling with any number of social discrepancies and lack of skills.
I also met musicians, hair dressers, good moms and dads, eager youth, and people in recovery.
They were one church family.
As this series closes, let us remember Who we are loving when we extend compassion to other humans.
Today’s Helpful Word
Matthew 25: 37
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you … in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers (and sisters), you did it to me.’
Shareable links to the For One of The Least of These 5-part series:
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. (for international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!