“When they’re down in the gutter, stomp on ‘em!”

I loved my football coach. At first I feared his tough exterior, but it didn’t take this young high school kid long to discover the warm caring heart underneath. On the grid iron, that expression (We knew it was tongue-in-cheek.) promoted the toughness it takes to play the game. In this sinful world, things go wrong. So a certain toughness can be a real virtue. (I think the biblical term is “endurance.”)

“Indeed, whatever was written in the
past was written for our instruction, so that, through patient endurance and
the encouragement of the Scriptures,
we would have hope.” [Romans 15:4]

Let’s consider how we, the body of Christ, can potentially foster or discourage such endurance. It was the last incarceration for her. She had learned her lesson. She was in jail; her baby girl was with foster parents. She cried. I shed tears with her. “I want my baby.”

Incarceration separates parents from their families. It’s not pretty. Shall we say they should have thought of that before the got themselves into this fix? Shall we say they made their bed so now they can sleep in it? When they’re “down in the gutter” shall we “stomp on ‘em?”
Sin corrupts; sin produces dysfunction. You and I are dysfunctional because of sin. Enter: the one who associates with “tax collectors and sinners.” Enter: Jesus.

When Jesus said the fields are ripe, he didn’t say we should let it rot in the field. There is a ripe field behind bars. The consequences of sin and the accompanying guilt produce a crop ready for harvest.

Getting out and getting back together will not solve the problem. The parent needs Jesus to deal with the sin and guilt; they need Godly wisdom and guidance to learn parenting skills they never had. The whole family needs healing that only the Great Physician can bring.

Penal systems have realized that any rehabilitation they can provide falls short. Many have seen “faith-based” organizations as more capable of providing what is needed. To know the love of Jesus and the unconditional love and forgiveness provides the healing families need. Learning the patience, kindness, selflessness, and humility it takes comes from knowing Jesus. That is a major goal of your WELS Prison Ministry Committee. We want to provide God’s people with the training to carry out this mission of love.

What was written in the past can help all of us develop the patient endurance required to cope in this dysfunctional world.

Tom Koepsell, Prison Ministry Committee member