“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners”
Some of Jesus’ inaugural words as He began His earthly ministry.
I had the opportunity this week to join the weekly Summit County Reentry Support Meeting. Every Tuesday between 4 pm and 5 pm, folks with records (the trending new-term is returning citizens) gather at the Front Porch to discuss issues of reentry and to support each other in staying out of prison, doing right, and finding opportunities.
As I stepped into this particular meeting, debt was being discussed.
“How do I know if I should consolidate my debt or not? I’m worried if I call this number that I’ll just have more people calling me for money I don’t have.”
“I don’t know if I should declare bankruptcy or go into default?”
“My ex-boyfriend used my account while I was locked up and ruined my credit, what do I do now?”
Individuals shared some of their concerns. A financial advisor was present at this meeting that offered advice and guidance on how to address respective financial debt issues. Others shared out of their own experiences. Every week various issues are discussed; sometimes professionals are present to offer advice, other times the group advises their own.
This time I had the opportunity to share about South Street Ministries and why we value hosting this group at the Café. I shared our history from the Crabbs family in Summit Lake to a growing community development ministry. I then opened up the floor for an important discussion – what does the Bible say about Reentry?
It’s a topic that I have been thinking much about recently. In Akron the levee failed and our prison population is being reduced. In Cleveland the Police Department has been reviewed by the Department of Justice for a pattern of excessive force. An off-duty officer was recently killed in Akron, and the national spotlight has been on the cities of Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland as we consider black lives, blue lives, and all lives.
So I asked my friends at the Reentry Meeting, what does the Bible say about Reentry?
I shared some of my own reflections. I considered Joseph of the Old Testament who was locked up on a (false) sexual-assault charge. I reflected on Moses who contextually killed a cop. I thought about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego incarcerated (and incinerated) for refusing to bow to the emperor.
I thought about Peter’s incarceration, miraculous escape, and the death of his captors. I thought about Paul’s incarceration, a miraculous earthquake, a non-escape (read Acts 16), and the conversion of the guards. And ultimately I thought about Jesus, dying as an enemy of the state and the Lord & Savior of my life.
As the group responded they shared the reality of Romans 3:23, that we all have sinned. We all have done something wrong. Within the legal experiences of that group was the spiritual reality that all fall short.
The conversation continues at South Street as we consider grace and justice. The issues of reentry are complex. There are systemic disadvantages. There are straightforward wrongdoings. As we host a place for our neighbors to support one another, we are also bringing that conversation to the forefront.
The legal systems of His day were the bookends of Jesus’ earthly life. I am thankful that the story doesn’t stop there. That beyond the legal punishment of the Cross, is the reality of the Resurrection. That in the person/reality/divinity of Jesus we have perfect grace and perfect justice.
Some would encourage us to trust and await Jesus’ coming Kingdom (and we do). Yet Jesus tells us that His Kingdom his here now and exhorts us to pray His Kingdom come. We’re actively seeking that Kingdom now at South Street Ministries.