Do you ever wonder how many people in our justice system are there in part (or wholly) because of mental illness or addictions? Would they have made the choices they made if they weren't dealing with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, mental illness stemming from sexual or physical abuse, or addiction to alcohol or drugs? Even scarier... would we have made some of the same choices they did if we had been in their situation?
It's so easy to condemn those who are in prison and to be grateful that justice is being served. After all, they deserve to be punished, right? I'd have to agree that in most cases, a punishment does need to be administered and a price has to be paid for their crimes. But I think we need to show more mercy and make sure that what we are condemning is the crime and not the person.
Imagine if Jesus came back to earth today. Do you think he'd spend his time with world leaders and other "important" people? I don't. In fact, after He visits his faithful sheep, I think we'd find him in some unexpected places- including ghettos, jails, and mental hospitals. He would go to those in need of healing.
Which made me think: if Jesus healed all prisoners of the mental illnesses that hold them back, how many would gratefully repent and turn away from their bad choices? I can picture many of them falling to their knees and weeping at Jesus' feet for the peace and healing He brought to them, afraid to look Him in the eye because of the shame of what they've done or been. How many of these souls have had no real inclination of the love of God in their life? And what kind of difference would it make in their life to finally know it? Sure, there would also be plenty whose hearts would be hardened and would be impenitent, just as there are plenty of "normal" people who reject Jesus.
I think it would be incredible to see everyone given a fair chance to accept salvation. For those who have had serious mental illness, addiction, or abuse to have their stumbling blocks removed and be able to see and feel clearly would be a miracle I'd love to witness.
I'm not saying that Jesus would come down and heal these folks and release them from their punishment. After all, a price has to be paid. But maybe their sentences would be reduced, or community service would be proscribed. I think it would be great to see them have the opportunity to fully apply their gift of agency. They could still choose to follow the path they've been on, but they would also have the choice and the ability to choose a higher road.
Because we're human, all that we can do is apply justice to these people. If someone breaks a law, we have to punish them. This is part of how society continues to function. Jesus isn't here to plead for them right now so we can only go by what we witness and hear. But one day, perfect justice will meet perfect mercy. Healing will occur, repentance will be granted, and if they grasp the opportunity to repent they will be forgiven and offered a chance to become all they weren't able to in this life.
To Jesus the worth of every soul is great. Not just His faithful, not just the productive, smart, well educated, competent ones. It's hard to comprehend a love that encompasses murderers, rapists, child abusers, drug dealers and addicts, but that's exactly what Jesus' love does. He looks at a person and sees past the labels, the appearance and actions- He sees what's inside. So when I think of people who society shuns (and sometimes rightfully so) I can't help but think that they, too, are one of God's children and He loves them just as much as He loves me. And if He loves them, shouldn't I? After all, aren't they my neighbor also?