By Dr. David Schuringa
A while back I wrote to our students about what it means to be a good neighbor. When you hear this, you might immediately think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus recounts that when everyone else—even church folks—avoided the person in need on the side of the road, the Samaritan stopped, tended to the man’s wounds and put him up in an inn to recuperate.
You are a good neighbor—loving your neighbor as yourself—when you use your time, talents and treasure to help people in need. You are redeemed by the cross for this purpose, and you do it well through Crossroad Bible Institute’s prison ministry.
But wait, you say! What’s wrong with this picture?
After all, the poor fellow left for dead on the side of the road was beaten by robbers—robbers not unlike some of our students. Gulp! Aren’t we skewing the correlation by saying that someone is a Good Samaritan for helping the bad guys who mistreated their victims? Since when are the perpetrators the victims we now need to help? Rather, shouldn’t we exact revenge, retaliation and retribution upon these scoundrels we call students, instead of offering grace?
The fact is that we need to apply “theo–logy,” that is, “God logic,” rather than human logic. And God logic is found in Scripture. In the Bible, when someone lands in prison, though he or she may have been the perpetrator, now, in the eyes of Jesus and the church, that person becomes a victim in desperate need of divine restoration, not retribution.
The Bible describes prisoners as the lonely ones (Matthew 25:36), the forgotten ones (Hebrews 13:3a), almost always the mistreated ones (Hebrews 13:3b), the despised ones (Psalm 69:33). All of these verses describe victims of neglect in need of unconditional grace.
Some people might still object by claiming that the prisoners in those texts were good inmates incarcerated for their faith. However, the Bible is abundantly clear that we are to treat strangers to the faith, unbelievers, in the same way we would treat “our own” (Exodus 23:9; Numbers 15:15). In fact, in those strangers we may be encountering angels unaware (Hebrews 13:2)!
But there’s much more. The beauty of this transformation is that because, through you, the inmates now experience God’s grace instead of God’s wrath, they do not remain victims. Though unloved by the world (much like the Samaritans of Jesus’ day), they become good neighbors—close to Jesus’ heart, like you.
God’s logic makes for a beautiful picture, doesn’t it?