Stop Crime God's Way
In these last days, mankind is experiencing the greatest crime wave in history. The scriptures say, "You must understand that in these last days there will come times of much trouble.
People will love themselves and money. They will have pride and tell of all the things they have done. They will speak against God. Children and young people will not obey their parents. People will not be thankful and they will not be holy.
They will not love each other. No one can get along with them. They will tell lies about others. They will not be able to keep from doing things they know they should not do. They will be wild and want to beat and hurt those who are good.
They will not stay true to their friends. They will act without thinking. They will think too much for themselves. They will love fun instead of loving God" (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
Not only are our prisons overflowing with men and women of these traits, but our streets are full of those heading for prison, committing crimes on a daily basis. These crimes stem from a deep spiritual problem in our nation.
The popular solution to crime these days is to "lock 'em up and throw away the key." The spirit of fear grips the hearts of the people while the legislature passes tougher laws each year, acting upon those fears. Many are hiding in their homes, hoping that crime does not strike them next, not knowing what to do. Even the police on the streets say the penal system is not working, but a large percentage of our population favors being tough on crime and the death penalty.
More executions took place in United States prisons in the '90s and early 2000s than at any other time in the past half-century. Several hundred of the nation's more than 5,000 death row inmates were executed, the most since seventy-six were put to death in 1955. The pace of executions had slowed down only because of the problems with obtaining lethal injection drugs. Foreign drug companies are refusing to sell drugs being used for executions to United States prisons, but other options have prevailed, so both state and federal executions have picked up again.
The prisoner is not only reaping what he has sown, but as we get tougher on crime, crime gets tougher on us. This doesn’t mean that we should defund the police, who protect us from criminals. We must learn to walk in maturity and humility without fear, opening our hearts to solutions that we have not considered, recognizing that we have the greater responsibility.
LACKING THE SOLUTION
Our leaders are searching now for better solutions to the crime problem. In California alone, the system has grown from 19,000 in 1970, to 29,000 in 1980, to over 150,000, but in recent years it has dropped due to overcrowding and new propositions. Still, in the U.S.A, there are more than 2 million prisoners who need a solution.
For the past half-century, the pendulum has swung back and forth from rehabilitation to punishment and back. The '70s ended a policy of rehabilitation in favor of punishment (CA Proposition 1170), which increased sentences. As efforts failed to rehabilitate through education, self-help and psychiatry, the only solution left it seemed as the prison budget dwindled, was maximum punishment, which has lasted since the '80s, but now in the 2020s, we see the pendulum swing back to rehabilitation.
JUSTICE VS. CHASTISEMENT
In the past few decades, justice meant only punishment and even vengeance in our society. The majority of people are still crying out for justice, and as a result, punishment is still highly favored. It has been said, "The 'punisher' is a hardhearted taskmaster fueled by bitterness and anger. His or her destructive actions have been justified by an overwhelming sense of injustice and a need for recompense" (Supernatural Power of Forgiveness, Kris & Jason Vallotton).
People retaliating in vengeance is not true justice. Vengeance happens as a natural response to the vindictive nature of fallen man. Only God can fix man's sinful nature. Besides, the Lord says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:17-21).
The dictionary meaning of justice is fairness, righteousness, administration of what is just (as by assigning merited rewards or punishment). Punishment lacks mercy and is defined Biblically as vengeance, but justice comes into balance in the New Testament in light of the Cross of Jesus Christ. On the cross, both God's justice and mercy were satisfied, when Jesus took our punishment for sin. If it had not been for Christ, justice would have demanded the death penalty for us all, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Simply put, those crying out for justice don't know God's justice, which includes His grace and mercy of the New Testament and His expression of love for all mankind, including those in prison. Vengeance nullifies the payment Christ made for us with His own blood.
What's lacking is chastisement which completes the meaning of justice as it is carried out with grace and mercy for the purpose of restoration and correction. Listen to the immortal words of Augustine (A.D. 354-430): "...let your indignation against their crimes be tempered by considerations of humanity: be not provoked by the atrocity of their sinful deeds to gratify the passion of revenge, but rather be moved by the wounds which these deeds have inflicted on their own souls to exercise a desire to heal them."
Chastisement suggests training [bringing to maturity] with grace, which brings reproof, admonishment, and healing. As a result, one becomes disciplined, which brings forth character to live in society, as opposed to expulsion and rejection. To bring chastisement into our penal system means to accept the God of the Bible and His grace, and to do that we must not misinterpret the first amendment, the so called "separation of church and state." The church is intended to be protected from the State, not the State from the church. The intention of the amendment was never to kick God out of our schools and prisons, but instead, we are to invite Him to solve this dilemma. The Old Testament prophet Micah wrote:
"He has shown you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8).
The major missing factor in the childhood of most prisoners is an understanding of God's love. There may have been love present in the home, but no true expression of God's unconditional love through an emotional touch or hugs, caring relationships and respect. When parents practice training with love and grace, children will be less likely to fail if their gifts and talents are allowed to develop freely.
Most prisoners experienced only a form of punishment during their childhood. It didn't work then, and will not work now. Many of their parents did not know God, so in all actuality, they went from one prison to another, never being properly trained to live in our society. Now, their childhood continues in prison, they are being punished without any defects of character being changed.
Not only were there missing factors at home but in our schools, where all Biblical principles have been replaced by humanistic views. Since prayer was removed from our schools in the '60s, we have seen the rebellion of our youth spread like wildfire throughout our society. As a result, the children have grown up rejecting God, with no understanding of sin. These children are our prisoners today, but there is hope.
We share the responsibility for the problems we see in our world. Just as prisoners are expected to take full responsibility for their crimes, we must all recognize our shortcomings and failures in this life. It is time for a change, and our leaders in authority have the greatest responsibility, that is, to train those in their care. But if they don't know God and have not trained their own souls and families, how can we expect them to train our prisoners?
Since most were raised without fathers, prisoners need examples, those who reach out to help, showing love and mercy. Let us be thankful for the changes we see in corrections, and pray for God's wisdom to move in their lives as they humble themselves to Him. For instance, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has instituted the COMPAS program with success.
Most prisoners have yielded to drugs in order to medicate the pain caused by sin (some call it character defects). But in reality, many in society are imprisoned with the same bondage and vices, but they haven't been caught. Until we receive the healing power that Jesus offers, we won't be truly compassionate toward the pain of others, especially prisoners and victims of crime. It takes the power of the Holy spirit to bring forth Godly fruit in our lives.
Now is the time for those who know God and have their own house in order, to reach out to those in prison. We must take our authority in Christ and go forth carrying out our responsibility as the Body of Christ. Eventually, each of us will know a prisoner; a son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, nephew, niece or friend. Will we treat them with fear and rejection or with compassion and mercy?
THE REAL SOLUTION
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to the crime problem. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. His death, burial, and resurrection give life to those in bondage through the born-again experience by the Holy Spirit. His grace enables us to reign in righteousness.
The Body of Christ has the responsibility to bring restoration to the prisoner. Mankind, in general, has left God, but for us, the Scriptures say,
"If My people which are called by My name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We are the people of God, called to humble ourselves, to pray, to seek God's face, and to turn from our wicked ways. As a result, forgiveness and healing will come to our land.
The Body of Christ has work to do. We can't wait for the penal system to change, but instead our attitude toward the criminal must change. Many of us have taken on the attitude of those not saved when it comes to crime. As Christians, we are to hate sin, but we are to love the sinner by reaching out with grace and mercy. Fear is not to overcome us, but the Spirit of love, so we are empowered to minister to those in prison.
"For God has not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).
Just as the prisoner is expected to take responsibility for his sin, the Body of Christ must take responsibility for its lack of compassion for those in prison. We must rise up, rebuke the fear, and reach out to the prisoner with the Gospel message of restoration.
WHAT MUST YOU DO?
The Body of Christ is the healing agent for all the problems in this world today. We must come out from behind our walls and comfort zones to reach the lost. Each one of us as individuals must do our part. Some of us don't want anything to do with a prisoner. I'm sad to say, it is more like most of us.
The late Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship said, "...Our churches are basically evangelical churches and church membership is basically white, middle or middle to upper class and they tend to be conservative. They equate conservative theology with conservative politics," though this attitude is changing. But no matter what your political affiliation, we must humble ourselves and let God's love and grace flow throughout our lives to others for real solutions to occur.
Doing the work of prison ministry is a stench in the nostrils of some. This attitude must change. Those who have lined themselves up with the majority of mankind, who have hardened their hearts and aligned themselves to the dictates of this world must repent. It is time to pray and seek the face of God. Begin by praying for the many victims of crime, victims' families, and for the prisoners who have caused so much pain to others, and for their families who suffer with them.
Where the victim has been a catalyst to propel the justice system into retaliation, let us pray for our nation's wisdom to see that these efforts have only caused the crime problem to increase. Pray for our leaders in authority, prison administrators, the legislature, the governors, and the President of our nation (1 Timothy 2:1-7).
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
We are called to go into all the world, not only outside our country but inside our prison walls, the prison world. Thank God for the many volunteers going into our prisons today.
Prisoners are a lonely bunch. They need friends, especially brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. They need your love and compassion. As rejects of society, some have nobody to care and no place to go when released.
"God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land." (Psalm 68:6).
As the Body of Christ, we must go into the prison world so that when released, the prisoner will be part of our world. Our prisoners need to be saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We are one big family, all heaven-bound in a short time.
Many of you don't have the opportunity to go personally into prison chapels to preach the Gospel, yet you may be called to visit one-on-one and make a disciple. You can go in other ways; by sending others with your gifts; supplying teaching materials, ALMS web pages, and brochures for prisoners and chaplains; volunteering with a pen pal ministry, and especially praying for those who minister to prisoners. Click here.
Regardless of what you are called to do, ACT TODAY! Your acts bring restoration to the prisoner, and your part helps to solve the crime problem. Your efforts could turn the penal system right side up.
We invite you to minister with us by sharing our outreach with others through Facebook, Twitter and other media outlets, click here.