Today my heart hurts.

The reality of sin and brokenness in this world sometimes comes crashing into sunny unsuspecting days. And the moment one bit of comfortable creeps in, you are reminded of the great needs all around you. You are reminded that the world does not live by God’s standards. You are reminded that the freedoms you experienced in the States are not necessarily readily available to all people in every nation. You are reminded that the ideas of justice and mercy are not universally defined or applied. You are reminded that we are all in desperate need of Jesus.

Yesterday, a man we’ve befriended here was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and awaits another trial in January for separate charges, which most likely will result in an even longer prison sentence. I have absolutely no idea if he is guilty or innocent. I’m not even sure what exactly the charges are, since I’ve heard several versions of what may or may not have happened. I do know he didn’t have adequate legal representation. And I do know that the judge had NO compassion for this man, and dealt very harshly with him. I was not present in the courtroom, so I do not know what evidence, if any, was offered to support the charges. It seems very little other than an accusation. I also know that whether or not he is guilty or innocent has not changed our feelings for him. Our family loves him, and we hurt because he is hurting. All of this saddens and troubles me greatly.

I trust fully in the sovereignty of our great God, and perhaps this man will have an amazing ministry in prison to other inmates. I pray that we can be a great encouragement to him in that endeavor, and that our visits will bring him joy in the midst of suffering.  I pray he will learn to cling to Jesus and His promises now more than ever, and that he will find ultimate comfort in Christ alone as what little worldly comforts he had are stripped away.

In a system where it seems that one is guilty unless proven innocent, justice is nowhere to be found. It’s very timely that Mike and Pastor Ernest have been preaching through 1 Peter at this time, specifically a verse we’ve clung to for years: entrusting ourselves to Him who judges justly (2:23).

As I am pondering all of the contextual implications in light of these recent events, I am being deeply convicted of all the times I’ve held a trial in my mind and heart about the actions, words, or motives of people around me. I’m convicted of the guilty pronouncements I’ve put onto others, without any real evidence, that have left them with lifetime convictions in my heart. And now they are sentenced to live out that punishment, whether they know it or not.

Today I want to pardon them all. Now don’t get me wrong…I realize I have absolutely no authority to pardon people’s sins. In many of their cases, they haven’t sinned against me anyway. Only God can pardon the guilty. What I’m saying is I want to let go of the judgments I have of others, especially the unwarranted ones of innocent people. I want to free them from the unjust prison I’ve put them in. I want to swing open the doors of my heart and offer compassion to those I’ve thought wronged me even when they didn’t.

I’ve got a lot to let go of today. Would you please pray that the Lord continues to deal graciously and lovingly with me, and that He would protect my friend in prison? Would you pray He convicts the hearts of those in the judicial system here, that they would remember that even criminals are image bearers of God and deserved to be treated with respect and compassion? Would you pray for the missionaries and organizations that minister to those in prison, that we can offer hope and joy to hurting people? Would you pray for prisoners (those in prison as well as those in the bondage of sin) that they would find the true freedom that only Jesus can give? Would you pray that forgiveness and reconciliation, the heart of the Gospel, would be made known to people everywhere and that hearts, lives, and communities would be changed for eternity?