Easter is perfect time to offer forgiveness, redemption to former inmates

By Rebecca Hagelin – – Sunday, April 14, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Christians around the world celebrate in commemoration of the redemption and restoration God so generously offers through the death and resurrection of His son. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice so that each of us might be forgiven of our sins and be reconciled to God.

Christ’s death on the cross was agonizing. But the pain of the whippings, nails driven through his hands and feet, and the slow suffocation was not the worst of what Jesus endured.

The most awful suffering came from the burden of sin and evil Jesus voluntarily carried for all mankind. He endured the oppressive darkness of being separated from God and the shame that comes with sin. Christ carried on his shoulders all of the murders, lies, deceit and every other kind of evil act that mankind has committed through all of history.

Satan and his demons thought that they had destroyed mankind and taken down God himself. They were wrong.

After his torturous crucifixion and hellish days in the pit, Christ emerged on that third day victorious, conquering death and sin for all who put their trust in Him! We call this victory, “.” With it comes the promise of hope, new beginnings and eternal life.

We are imperfect people, so as we start life anew in Christ doing our best in the power of the Holy Spirit to follow His example, we will continue to fail and sin. Mercifully, every day also offers a new chance for forgiveness and for making things right again.

As it says in the Scriptures foretelling Christ: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

It is the challenge of every Christian to also practice forgiveness and reconciliation toward people who have wronged us. Although often incredibly difficult to do, Christ calls us to forgive our enemies and friends alike.

In fact, He requires it. The New Testament makes this very clear in several places. Take Matthew 6:14-15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

How do we apply this mandate to those who break the laws of our country and harm their fellow citizens? Certainly, they must be held accountable.

Christianity calls for justice to be meted out to those who break laws, including imprisonment and other methods of punishment.

But if Christianity, by definition, centers around forgiveness and reconciliation, how should we as a nation deal with criminals after they have served their time?

Scripture calls us to give the truly repentant a “second chance.” If former inmates are no longer a risk to society, we serve our nation and justice when we allow them a real chance to start over.

Unbeknown to many is the fact that right now, those who leave prison are often not permitted to obtain business licenses. Many have no skills or education to help them secure jobs. Others have been abandoned by friends and family. They are all branded “criminals” for the rest of their lives, a stigma often preventing them from obtaining employment or even housing.

We cannot forgive or redeem the soul. But God expects us to carry in our hearts the desire to help restore our fellow man where we can.

Yes, some will continue to rob, abuse and murder. We have a responsibility to punish them and protect the innocent by locking up the guilty.

Just as Christians are celebrating , in America we also are commemorating “Second Chance Month,” as declared by Donald Trump. It’s a month to ponder how we treat those who have wronged society, but who have paid their debt and are seeking a second chance to contribute to our communities, take care of their families, and reconcile with their fellow citizens.

Prison fellowship has long led the way for restorative justice. Mr. Trump has joined hands with them and scores of law enforcement agencies, public officials, nonprofit groups and businesses who seek to reduce crime and recidivism by removing the many barriers that often prevent former prisoners from succeeding on the outside.

As we celebrate the forgiveness, redemption and restoration offered to all of us through Christ, it’s the perfect time to offer those things on a human level to others. To help, visit prisonfellowship.org, RightonCrime and whitehouse.gov.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at

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