Christians and Prison Ministries

My mind has wandered onto the subject of prison ministry.  In my past, I have had a priest who was deeply involved with going to a state prison each month and tending to the ministerial needs of convicted felons, those who had committed serious crimes.  I never questioned that need, although I could see my priest under significant stress from all of the “charitable work” he volunteered himself to do.  He made it seem so hard being a true Christian, simply because his candle always seemed to be burning at more than the two ends.

Jesus, as far as the Gospels tell us, did no such charitable work.  Jesus’ ministry was at a time when history reports the Romans took delight in making sure the Jews (and all others in Judea) knew who held the ruling hand those days.  Surely, there were those in prisons unjustly two thousand years ago.  But, just recently (the third Sunday of Advent, in the Book of Matthew) we were reminded about John the Baptist being in prison and sending some of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one.”

Jesus did not go to the prison to soothe John’s worries about being unjustly imprisoned.  Conversely, while Jesus was in prison, awaiting trial and being punished, none of his disciples came to offer their support.  Jesus, if could be assumed, never demonstrated to his disciples, “Remember, next Wednesday we will go preach to the felons in the prison.” Therefore, Jesus had a ministry that sought those who had not yet committed crimes, and there were plenty outside prisons to serve.

I believed the prison ministry was something expected of Christians.  I don’t know why, but it was probably rooted in having read in Paul’s letters, where he told those in various churches that he encouraged to care for the prisoners.

I now see this as Paul knowing, first-hand, the persecution that early Christians were facing from Roman overlords and their Jewish brethren (those seeing talk of a Messiah as heresy).  Paul himself was punished many times for his faith (beaten and stoned), and he was imprisoned several times.  He knew others who were likewise filled with the Holy Spirit would be so “in your face” about Jesus that they too would probably be put under lock and key at some point in their futures.  Thus, Paul’s intent was to minister to Christians unjustly in jail.  Paul was not saying, “Don’t forget to go sell religion to criminals as a way to get an early release.”

Criminals in prisons are the ones our judicial system has declared “sinners” against a society.  The society makes laws that are morally based, to some degree; and those laws are designed to scare people away from crime.  The police cannot and do not arrest a “would-be murderer.”  The law tells them to wait until the body is really dead.

Those who, for whatever reason act to break the law and get caught, are punished by the judicial system.  If convicted, they go to prison for a period of time determined by the society (somewhat) to be reasonable and just.

In that process, mistakes do happen, as we all know.  Some innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit.  However, to keep from living in a dangerously lawless state (anarchy), we all have to assume that mistakes happen, but we accept flaws of the legal system (wrongly convicting people).

We have to see those mistakes as being to such a small degree that we can live with a few innocent people in prison.  That is much easier than the alternative, where we live with a lot of hardened criminals still on the street breaking the laws, from fear of wrongly convicting them.  As Americans, we see our judicial system as fair, rather than like some other worldly systems, those which seek to wrongly convict people who are threats to the state.

What has my mind wandering now is how Christians have taken on such a high position in the world, one so high as to feel it is important to have prison ministries.  The purpose is not to seek out persecuted Christians and offer encouragement to maintain the Holy Spirit.  Instead, it is designed to welcome those in maximum security prisons, whose hearts were so blackened they committed heinous crimes.

We cannot have a prison ministry that only goes to minimum security prisons or seeks only to help white collar criminals ease back into society.  It has become a Christian responsibility to find the darkest places on earth and “go shine the light.”  To me, such a service is not a determining factor for a true Christian.  True Christians do not go out into the world looking for fights, as if, “Woe be it to you who challenges my godlike presence.”  The people came to Jesus, so the light attracts those who want to see; and that is the only way Christianity can happen.

My mind wanders because our society has become so putrid with its acceptance of sin that it has divided our nation into two factions: those who deny there is a God, but love to count on Christians to accept all sins as forgiven; and those who believe they are pure and godlike, because they are Christian, so can lay their hands on the sinful and save them (or cast down condemnation for not being saved). 

Stuck in the middle of these two major groups are the true Christians.  Those are human beings who just want to live a life in honor of Christ, letting God forgive who God wants to forgive, letting the wicked be punished, and accepting that if they break God’s Law and/or Christ’s example, then they will lose more than a few years of freedom on earth.  When it is said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” one Christian is that first step.

Jesus did not come to minister to the sinful.  He was sent by God to show us all how to live, if we truly want to get to Heaven.  All the Apostles demonstrated that living like Christ means living a life of hardship, brought on by living right.  For some reason, if you live right, then you are going to attract a lot of people who think you are trying to show them all up, for not living right.

True Christians (Apostles) help other true Christians (persecuted Apostles), because true Christians have been filled with the Holy Spirit.  Through that infusion, true Christians are quite aware what they (individually) must do with their lives (individually).  Christ did not come to overthrow the Roman Empire (although it was later overthrown).  Apostles did not take rise to eliminate crimes from society (although Apostles commit no crimes).

I believe if we stop trying to save the world for Jesus, the world will be a better place.  All each one of us should do, all that each one of us can ever do, is save ourselves.  In attempting self-salvation, we have no control over the outcome.  Only God grants salvation.  The mind of Christ leads us, individually, in that direction.  That means letting the Holy Spirit into your heart, so Christ can then rule your mind.

If that leads one to a prison, because a family member or friend is there, then that is God’s call for you.  Just don’t let your brain do the thinking, so you start believing you are smart enough to save anyone besides yourself.  Always keep in mind, however,  if you spread the Holy Spirit to a convicted criminal, he or she will suddenly realize they would be much better off cleaning the earthly sins off their bodies in an earthly prison, rather than getting out of prison without having truly paid for their crimes.

Just like Jesus told the messengers from John the Baptist, “Look at the deeds of my ministry, to know if I am the one.”  In the end, our Christianity is always relative to our deeds.  We can be “reborn in Christ,” but just like our first birth, we come out cold, wet, and crying.  We leave a warm and secure environment, all we have ever known, forced by our own mothers to leave and find some place else to live.  We change from breathing embryonic fluid to breathing God’s life breath.

Change is deeds.  One way or another, sacrifices must be made.  There is no easy way to heaven.  Earth is a prison to all of us, with Christ the minister who has come to show us the way to find the only true freedom – that of Heaven.

Written by Robert Tippett.  Please visit our website: Katrina Pearls.

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About rtippett97

I have an ability to understand Nostradamus in a way that no one else can. I can translate and interpret what he wrote in the letters and verses of The Prophecies, in such a way that can be logically defended. That ability has led me to find that I am able to understand the books of the Holy Bible in ways I never imagined I could. None of this talent has come to me through educational institutions or seminaries, as everything dawns upon me. No one has taught me what I understand. My understanding is purely by divine assistance, which I did not seek to possess, but which I wholeheartedly welcome. Because I do not have this ability to keep to myself, I write freely about those translations and interpretations that come to me, so others may find how they too can understand how Nostradamus was a prophet of God and how Christianity is now failing Christ, just as the children of Israel failed God. Understanding what I have to offer is the only chance this world has for survival. If you would like to ask questions and take the time to seriously discuss this topic, feel free to send me an email or post a comment on one of my blog articles.
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6 Responses to Christians and Prison Ministries

  1. Brother, you said a true Christian is one who “Let’s God forgive who God will forgive.” Take a look at the following texts. Matthew 6:14, Matthew 18:35 (this one actually convicts you), Luke 6:37, John 20:23. We are commanded to give forgiveness as he has give us forgiveness.
    Also in Matthew 25 we are commanded to visit those in prisons.
    Also, it is not merely to visit those who were wrongly accused. Shockingly, we are actually to visit and forgive those who are there for good reason. Remember Jesus was rebukes, as you have rebuked those in Prison ministry for hanging out with sinners and tax collectors. He stated “I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentence.” (which is in complete contridiction to your statement “Jesus did not come to minister to the sinful) (Luke 5:32). Our task is to preach “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” If we need to preach repentence we need to preach it to sinners, we find sinners in prisons.
    But I would really encourage you to read the parable of the parable of the “Unmerciful Servant” in Matthew 18:21-35.

    • rtippett97 says:

      You address me as a brother, as you shoot me with Biblical arrows designed to condemn my comments. Thank you brother for targeting me and not someone else. As much as they sting, none were fatal. Your forgiveness is accepted, if that was your intent.

      I read all of your recommendations and nothing I read changes my opinion about prison ministry. I forgive my brother, I forgive my enemies, and I forgive those who have sinned against me. None of them are in prisons, that I know of. Perhaps you are seeing my honesty as “unmerciful?” I serve God by focusing on preaching repentance before people go to prison to hear that sermon.

      We, as Christians, are not commanded to cater to those who have committed grave sins and have been punished by law. We forgive by acceptance of law as just. We should forgive injustices in our legal system, as much as accept sentences that are unjust. I feel family is who should focus on prison ministry; and some priests-ministers-pastors may feel prisoners are their family, in Christianity. I simply do not see Jesus teaching prison ministry as a general theme of God. Remember, Jesus did not come for anyone other than Jews, so his exclusivity was not a turning away from God’s intent.

      If you feel moved to minister to those within prisons, then you should follow your calling. I admire the motivation of those who do such ministry, preaching repentance; but,as I stated, I have also seen this drain the energy of good people. I have heard a priest say, “Prison is a very dangerous place.” This said by one, like you, who forgives.

      • Do brothers ever disagree vocally? Of Course. Paul opposed Peter to his face. Galatians 2:11. I would not call the words I used arrows, but as the Bible calls them, a sword. And yes often they hurt, that’s the point. The Bible is not there to support what we already thing, but to pierce us in a way as we move closer to Christ. That is why I would encourage you. To back up your criticisms of your Priest with Scripture rather than personal experience. Things like “We forgive by accaptance of the law as just.” Can you back that up with the word of God. Brother, you wrote this as a criticism of your priest, and as a pastor myself, and a defender of the Bible I felt led to respond. If you post an opinion you must be willing to hear other opinions so please know that I am not attacking you. But again, please tell me where what you say is backed up by the Word of God. If it is not backed up by the Word of God, then you, a follower of God, should allow the Word of God to “transform you”. Dont worry I won’t respond again. Thanks for the conversation.

  2. rtippett97 says:

    I remember my past days on an Amazon blog, which was named a “Christian book forum.” That was a misnomer, as it attracted more atheists than Christians. The Christians were mostly people like yourself, who took pride in their never-ending ability to whip out another “sword” (as you say the Bible calls it) of Scripture. It was a never-ending battle of wits. I found it to be very emotionally draining. I gave that up after about a year of reading one insult after another. Whenever I would point out the mistakes in logic that were made (to atheists), I would be attacked by the Christians. It seemed the atheists always did more to anger the Christians. After all, they were writing about a disbelief, and only beliefs need to be substantiated with facts.

    Long story short, being truly Christian is not about being a soldier that is always fighting with one-liner swords from the Holy Bible. It is about the totality of everything written, and even that not written, which is “between the lines.” The totality can only be understood by help from the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that leads my understanding of the Holy Bible, the meaning of Jesus, and why I am called to serve God. If it were not for that influence, I would not have ever decided to write about the failures of Christianity, which are many. I have already been transformed, and I post to help others find the same awaits them, if they accept it.

    As part of this effort to help others see things in a new light of Christ, I have maintained a blog of some type since 2007, and rarely does anyone respond to a post. Even rarer is a comment of some length. I welcome all comments that address the content of the post, although I am prepared for personal attacks and condemnations. I have welcomed your comments.

    I did expect there would be some opposition to this particular post, where it can seem I am against prison ministries. I never stated that in the post. I believe each prison has a chaplain, which is for those who feel called to serve the needs of the incarcerated. I have no reason to write any article about a “priest of mine,” but a “priest of mine” can be how I perceive other priests to be. Additionally, I am married to a priest. Personal experience is how we know the world we live in.

    Your comments are personal in the sense that you act as if you know me and why I write. Unless you tell me more to back up your conclusions, they can only be seen as guesses based on one post. In any case, your conclusions about me are wrong, which means I can conjecture that you are seeing some aspect of yourself in my post. By seeming to want to save me from my misguided self, it makes me wonder if you have questions about your direction. If you knew me better, you might want to pierce me more with Biblical “swords,” so maybe it is best you do remain silent.

    However, if you wish to continue, I’m here for your benefit. Thanks for commenting. Best wishes in the future.

  3. lynstabler says:

    First, let me just say that postint a comment on a WordPress blog is a pain in the you know what. I had written the post below already and tried to post it but lost it in the porcess of logging in to WP. Hopefully it will not now appear twice. Ugh!

    That said…

    I enjoyed reading both sides of your dialogue about prison ministry. Personally, I believe one of the main benefits of prison ministry is to support Christians who are in prison. They are surrounded by lies and evil forces; being a Christian presence for them encourages them to remain faithful and comitted to Christian values.

    I also believe that having a dialogue with differing opinions is what the path to truth is all about. The words we choose, the risks we take to speak out, our willingness to let mistakes happen in the process of getting the words out…this is the messy process that clarifies what we believe and determines what we will do. If we only talk to and listen to those we agree with, we will never come to a more complete understanding of reality. It takes people different from us to make us think. I believe Jesus would want us to say what we believe and act on it. I think he would want us to tell our truth to one another, to forgive mistakes and move on.

  4. rtippett97 says:

    Thank you for your comment Lyn. I agree that communication is a two-way street, with road signs to obey and the safe operation of a vehicle required, so accidents don’t happen. Good communication does require forgiveness of the drivers that cut you off and run stop signs. Forgiveness means not being emotionally charged with negative energy brought on by others, so you can pleasurably and safely keep driving to your destination.

    That metaphor said, this posting is less and less about the physical entity of ministers serving Christ by preaching salvation to convicted criminals in penal institutions, and more about seeing everyone breathing air on this planet (and extended space capsules here and there) as prisoners in this earthly realm. We all have a responsibility to the law, which Jesus said was the first step towards guaranteeing the heavenly reward.

    There is a problem present in the world today, which is reflected in the growing need for prisons, with many filled to their max capacity. That problem then creates a growing need for prison ministries; but addressing that secondary problem does nothing to lessen the problem that our world has grown so cold and hard, so unfeeling and unfriendly that people turn to crime. The root of this problem is the decline of Christianity, where more and more the religion identifying itself with our Savior (Christ) has become like a corporation of sales representatives, who step over many people in need outside the prisons, to go to where there is a captive audience.

    Make the topic mission work in some Central American country, instead of prison ministry. The point of this posting is this: Why do Christians think it is okay to walk past people in need of help, to get to people that are helpless? Ministry begins in that pounding piece of flesh called your heart. “Physician save yourself!” Christians must first find the Holy Spirit within them, before they can run out pretending to be Jesus Christ, saving the world with a message of repentance. I think the world has seen where that level of Christianity gets it.

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