The love of Christ can set us free

February 27, 2021

Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

As a longtime chaplain in federal prisons, I have seen the divisions that occur between races at their most extreme. Violence between races is not unusual in prison, one of the most segregated environments on Earth. Among non-Christian religious groups, race is still a dividing issue. Yet, among the Christian groups that take seriously Christ's admonition to love your neighbor as you love yourself, a remarkable thing occurs. When people of all ethnic, societal, and economic backgrounds realize their need to seek the salvation of Jesus, they are able to find peace with one another.  
 
I have worked in four separate federal prisons, and in every instance, it is the dedicated Christians who show the most diversity and the greatest compassion for one another. Unlike most churches, prison church gatherings do not have the option of segregating by race or money or status. They must come together collectively to hear the Word of God. In doing so, they are forced to recognize what we must recognize: We are all sinners in need of Jesus.  No matter our race or background, it is in Christ that we will find real community and healing. 
 
Many demand an end of prisons because they believe it is a societal evil based on white supremacy. And no matter one's views on the subject, the fact remains that God is using these very circumstances to form the next generation of Christian leaders. Such men and women have experienced raw racism and violence in their lives, but they are being taught that love of neighbor is possible, but only through a vital relationship with Christ. 
 
Christ's presence is on display daily in this setting. It is seen in the men and women who risk their lives daily for their country who still find time to show mercy to inmates. It's seen in the inmates who accept Jesus and live for Him, making them ambassadors for change and justice in their housing units. Even in the darkest places, God is reaching people to stand up for Him against all manner of evil.
 
Neil B. Highley is Supervisory Chaplain at FMC Lexington.