The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Letters and Responses
Letter From Phyllis Concerning Prison Ministry - 30 Dec 2002
Letter From Phyllis
I'm confused about what Jesus meant when He said to visit those in prison. I have a brother whose has been brought up in church, but has back sliden. He's been in prison 3 times. I find it hard to visit him or even take his collect calls. Do you think Jesus wants you to visit those who want to be life time criminals? Back in Jesus time, people were thrown in jail for a lot less than they are now. My brother's been in jail 3 times for selling drugs. I believe in tough love. My mom's in church and thinks it her duty as a Christian and mother to visit and do everything he tells her to do from jail. He worries her to death with stupid things. He keeps bringing up Paul being in prison, and what Jesus said about visiting. He's not even in the same league as Paul. I just want to know if Jesus wants you to visit people who haven't learned their lesson the first time.
Thank you for your time
Thank you for your letter and question.
When Jesus told us to visit those in prison, He was mainly speaking about those who were being persecuted for their faith, but He was also speaking of our witnessing to them of our faith and love.
I don't know your brother, personally, and thus it's hard to make a judgment as to his motives and the true intent of his heart. Nevertheless, I'll try to help with some generalities that I have gleaned from my personal experience with over 500 inmates whom I met personally as part of my prison ministry.
From what you have written, your brother is not being persecuted for his faith, nor has he failed to hear the witness of Jesus Christ. He has heard it and he has rejected it for the sake of his personal lifestyle, but we should never give up our hope and prayers that he will truly receive and repent of his ways.
When Jesus forgave someone, He told them to go forth and sin no more. The fact that your brother has been sent to prison three times for the same offence is a strong indication that he doesn't want to change his ways. However, Jesus also told Peter to forgive someone 490 times (70 X 7), which means that we aren't to harbor any ill feelings toward other people, and we're always to have the capacity to forgive when the other person truly repents.
Many inmates use religion to gain sympathy from those on the outside. Your brother's comments to your mother are a strong indication of such a situation. That shouldn't stop you and your mother from loving him, but it should stop you and you mother from feeling guilty.
One part of true repentance comes when the person takes full responsibility for what he or she has done. Another is when he or she expresses their sorrow for hurting others. When your brother does this, and stops trying to manipulating you and your mother, then you should accept what he says as being true, unless or until he shows his insincerity.
Neither you nor your mother are obligated to do anything, but true love urges us to be there to comfort and encourage. This doesn't mean that your mother should do everything your brother asks, but only what she desires to do as a loving mother.
I also think that it's important for you and your mother to tell your brother how you feel, but only do so when your heart and soul is free of anger and filled with love.
We hope this helps, and we look forward to hearing from you again.
In the Love of the Lord,
Reply from Phyllis
Thank you so much for your comments. You have my brother pegged just right. I still love him, I just don't like what he does, using my Mother and the other older saints like he does. But you've been very helpful.
Thank you for your quick response.
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