Recently a friend forwarded a news item about a neighborhood which was up in arms about a re-entry program that had opened a facility in its small community. It seems that the neighbors did not want this facility located in their community, suggesting that it should be opened in some other environment. Since this project was supported by a church they were agitated that this en-entry program had not been located near the church. “Not in my neighborhood”, was the predominate theme of their objections.
In their haste to remove the proposed en-entry home from their immediate environment, it seems that the primary objection is the actual return of offenders to the neighborhoods which spawned them originally. Yes they should be released, but not to our neighborhood. This steam of thinking is a direct reflection of the concept of SEVERCIDE. When the government chooses to apply mass incarceration as its instrument of social reform, they create a completely different set of problems which negatively influences the broader boundaries of society.
SEVERCIDE is the systematic exclusion of individual lives from community life. Like the concepts of homicide and suicide, it seeks to deprive others of their inherent lives among members of society. These individual are called upon to exist as shadows in the community. Who among us can live out our lives as unseen entities? Where does the application of the call to forgiveness find its influence in our personal lives? The essence of the challenge to forgive others lies in our ability to accept the faults of our neighbors, as equal to our own failings, in the way that we practice our Christian faith.
So what does Christianity have to do with post-prison re-entry? We are called upon to accept the failings of others, as we ask God to accept our own personal failings. It is just that simple! Christianity is not a exclusive club. It is the perfect application of God’s love for all of us, in all domains of our lives. We have all sinned and are deserving of eternal condemnation, none of us are worthy of His love for us. Our faith calls us to help those who have fallen and to work in restoring them to fellowship. Just as we seek to restore fellowship with God, we are bound to applying the same concepts to the lives of others.
If we fail in this call to justice, then we have become hypocrites and we are deceived in our beliefs about the value of all other lives. Like the lepers of old, we exclude individuals from our presence in the belief that they are beyond hope and therefore beyond the love of God. How vain we have become when we see ourselves as worthy, but look upon others as existing beyond God’s love. This crisis which occurs in communities all over America is a call for the direction application of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We seek these gifts for ourselves, but are we willing to extend them to others who have offended our sensibilities?
At the present time, Christianity is experiencing a process of SEVERCIDE itself, as we observe the active rejection of those beliefs we have held to be essential to our faith: The value of life, the sanctity of marriage, the divine purpose inherent in each individual life and the ultimate rejection of God’s plans for each of our lives. Either God exists as the essential authority in our lives, or we are on our own without hope, outside of governmental authority and influence. This is a true test of faith. We cannot operate on a secular basis and live out the call which Christianity places upon each of our lives. Do we believe that others are beyond the love of God?
We are called upon to live out our lives in His plan, which calls for Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness. How can we expect Him to bless each of us with these gifts, but then deny them to others who were created in His likeness and His image? This is a call to extend His love to those who have offended us, as a mirrored application of the actions of Jesus Christ toward the thief dying on the cross next to Him. We know from His words that Jesus promised that individual that he would be with Him in paradise that day. Here was an individual who had violated the laws of society, but Jesus recognized that the thief had a contrite spirit while acknowledging Him as King.
Is He King of our individual lives, or do we mock His word in the way that we relate to others? Truth stands apart from all other realities of life. It has always been truth and will always be truth. We cannot escape that reality. We may deny its reality in our lives in the ways that we apply to others, but it will never alter the fact that His truth is what we are called upon to apply to our own lives and the lives of others. Do you remember His call to forgive others, as we seek His forgiveness in our own lives? It is a call to go beyond the dictates of the law and embrace others as He embraced the thief on the cross: As He embraces each of us.
It is specifically because we deserve nothing but condemnation, that His law of love is such a powerful influence upon our own lives. It is difficult to live out this challenge in our daily lives, but as this focus starts to change our lives, we find our lives being conformed to His image. We cannot pretend to apply His law of love to others and yet expect His blessings in our own lives. Either we shoulder the difficult burdens of life with a spirit of love and confidence in His word, or we resist the call to forgiveness and invite a spirit of selfishness and exclusiveness regarding our own worthiness. Our actions our governed by our beliefs, what do you believe?