It was 6:00 AM when my parents and I got on the road to head to Macon, Georgia. The trip would take roughly two hours, plus an additional hour or two waiting in line, before our hour- long visit would begin. Then, we’d get on the road and head back home again.
Once we arrived, we waited in line with all the other anxious people. When it was our turn, we were escorted into a cold and sterile room. Though the workers were kind, it didn’t alleviate the uneasy feeling that I’d had all morning. The loud buzzers and the clamorous sound of the steel doors added to my unsettled state. Soon, we were ushered into a room filled with men, women and children sharing hugs, meals and conversations.
I waited nervously at a table. It had been so long since I’d seen him. I wondered, “How is his hair now? Does he look older? What will we talk about?” So many questions invaded my mind. Then, he entered the room, looking just as I’d remembered him. We shared a snack, laughed and conversed for a while, but before long, it was time for us to return to our very different lives; mine in the comforts of a home and his in a prison cell.
My step-brother has been incarcerated for nine years. However, with a life sentence for murder, he may never enjoy life outside of prison again. That’s a reality I’m sure he has thought about many nights.
Sure, I could judge him for his violent act. After all, he killed someone. But the Bible warns, “Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart” (1 John 3:15, NLT) and, admittedly, I’ve hated a few people in my past. I could go on to say that his decision was foolish and I’d be correct. But, are his foolish choices any different than mine?
I could go as far as saying, “I’d never do what he did.” But how can I be certain? Honestly, I’ve done many things that I never thought I would do. I’m not condoning my step-brother’s actions, but I’m not condemning him for them either. It’s just not my place.
I once had a conversation with a lady whose brother was being released from prison after an extended period of time. She stated that she didn’t know if she wanted him in her life. I simply asked her, “Can you love a sinner?” For me, it’s that simple. Our sins might be different, but the same God who died for my sins died for his sins. The same God who loves me, loves him too. So, instead, I use this situation as an opportunity to love my step-brother the way God loves us all…unconditionally.
Most importantly, love each other deeply. Love has a way of not looking at others’ sins.
1 Peter 4:8 (International Children’s Bible)