My favorite scripture is in Matthew 25. It is among the words of Jesus when He describes an event that will happen in the future:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Using this standard, I think a pretty good argument could be made for all half-decent parents all being guaranteed a spot in heaven. Children are, on almost on a daily basis, hungry, thirsty, strange, naked, sick, and prisoners (why do you think cribs have bars?) But Jesus does not want us to stop at just our children or spouse, our cousins, or even our circle of friends. In the sermon on the mount, He tells us: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”
The Bible dictionary I consulted says the Jews detested the publicans (the tax-collectors of their day) and to be a publican was enough to get you cast out of the church. What kind of reward will someone receive if they are found unworthy be a part of God’s kingdom? Think of what that reward could be. If you do nothing but take care of your family and friends, your reward will be the same. Therefore, you must go beyond loving and serving those close to you and expand that service to strangers and even enemies.
I listened to a TED talk this week called This is Not my Home by the Lady Lifers. If you have never heard of TED, a quick ten-word summary is that they get interesting people to give talks about interesting things. Listening to this talk was unlike any other experience I’ve had with TED. Honestly, it made me feel terrible. I felt so bad that I stopped the talk before it finished. I did not disagree, nor was I offended with what was being said. I realized my discomfort was because of two things. First, it is hard to see people without their freedom. But second, I realized that I had neglected one of my responsibilities as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I knew I needed to visit those in prison, and I didn’t want to admit it to myself. The talk is below, but be warned, it could be a very emotional experience.
I am not advocating for getting these women released from prison. I am not calling for a change to the American justice system. I don’t know their crimes nor their victims. I do know, however, that they are daughters of God. His love for these women is not diminished, tarnished, or changed in any way. These women are separated from their families and their homes and have been for a long time. King Benjamin, a Book of Mormon prophet teaches us: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17) If you call Jesus Christ your King and have ever wondered what you can do to serve Him, here is one way: write a letter to these women. Send them a ray of light. If you know someone else who is incarcerated, maybe you should start with writing or visiting with them.
I hope that I can be counted among the righteous on Christ’s right hand when He comes. I sincerely hope you are there too.
The Lady Lifers are:
Debra Lee Brown
P.O. Box 180
Muncy, PA 17756