For I was...in prison and you visited me.
When did we see you in prison, and visit you?
(Matthew 25: 35-36; 39)
Good people try to avoid prison at all costs. Better people—Christian disciples—go to prison, because Jesus tells us to visit prisoners as one of the six behaviors by which we will be judged at the end of time.
The evil racism that resulted in the loss of three lives in Charlottesville this past weekend is a shameful blemish on our national soul. Our response to racism is a clear marker of our discipleship. Perhaps we were prompted to examine our own conscience and identify some deep-seated attitudes that we need to purify. Or, we watched and read news accounts with a painful incredulity that such hatred remains in our country.
As Christians, we have a sacred responsibility to respond to evil when we see and experience it. Calling sin by its appropriate name, we know that no one race, gender, nation, sexual orientation, or socio-economic standing enjoys greater dignity than another. Our almighty God created all of his children with a radical equality that transcends any sort of division or category. Very simply, God has no favorite children. Why, then, do some of our siblings think and behave otherwise?
Might supremacists benefit from our visits to them in the prisons of their world views when respectful conversations are possible?
Might supremacists need our prayers to melt, shatter, and penetrate the attitudes and vitriol that lead to suffering and division?
Might supremacists be converted by the witness of our charity and gentleness when we care for beings who are very different than ourselves?
We may dismiss these questions as Pollyana or unrealistic. Yet, the power of the Holy Spirit sustains and empowers our visits, prayers, and service.
Matthew's gospel concludes with Jesus asking all nations if we cared for the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, ill, and imprisoned. And, Luke's gospel begins with the angel Gabriel's words to Mary after announcing she would bear Jesus: "for nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).
Nothing is impossible with God, especially when God's people cooperate with his grace.