The Righteous Shall Inherit the Land
By Regular Contributor Doug
“Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. For the Lord loveth judgment and forsaketh not His saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.” [Psalm 37:27-29]
I have decided to write this blog on a subject that has always fascinated me, corrections in prisons and jails. I’ve always felt that I missed my calling in life as I have had an interest in this profession for as far back as I can remember. I am by no means an expert, nor am I particularly well educated in the occupation. Still, I have read quite a few books and articles that pertain to the correctional system, and as such, I have formed some opinions on the basis of understanding and critical thinking.
Although there are many aspects of corrections and incarceration to explore, I am going to touch on a few that are closest to the values that we, as Christians, must adhere to and put into action.
The first area I would like to address is juvenile justice. What I will address here is more prominent in American prisons than Canadian prisons. But there are some similarities. I have never understood the purpose in sentencing a child under the age of 18 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. What good can come out of taking away a person’s hope of ever being free? I’m not saying that severe punishment is not warranted in severe cases. However, there should be a place for common sense and empathy in this area of criminal justice.
A citizen isn’t given the right to vote in the U.S.A. until they are eighteen. They cannot legally consume alcohol until they are twenty one. They can’t join the military until they are eighteen. They can’t drive until they are sixteen, with the growing consensus that even sixteen years of age may be too young. The reason for all these age restrictions is because before the specified age, these youth are still considered to be immature children who cannot be trusted to exercise good sound judgement in these life altering situations. And, for the most part, we can agree that they are too young. With that being said, though, how can we judge them as fully grown adults when they commit a serious crime and sentence them on the grounds that they understood the seriousness of it? With this contradictory logic, it makes absolutely no sense.
“Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
Solitary confinement is also another concern. If used as a punitive measure to deter crime in prison, it can be an effective tool towards attaining good order, structure and discipline. But it should be strictly supervised and controlled. No killer is any worse than any other killer at first glance. However, when solitary confinement is used as a punishment, resulting in years spent alone in a cell, then we must see it for what it is — cruel and vengeful.
Convicted murderer Paul Bernardo is an example of this kind of misguided use of solitary confinement. He is not a very popular guy here in Canada, nor should he be. He has warranted great punishment and fully deserves to be in prison. In saying that, does he deserve to be in constant solitary confinement? Personally, I don’t think he deserves to be there any more than any other heinous murderer. Being locked up in a walk in closet for more than twenty years must be hell on earth for any human. When we cross the line from justice being served to acting upon our own vengeful hearts towards our “enemies,” then we cross a line and risk falling into satan’s grasp.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a bleeding heart — not by a long stretch. I do feel, that we need to be very careful when we teeter on the fence between rehabilitation/justice and vengeance/anger. Only God knows what is in our hearts. Therefore, there should be no exceptions when it comes to loving your enemy and giving forgiveness. Jesus gave us two commandments: the first was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love one another.
I have listened to people who speak as Christians about what they would do to certain criminals or what they wish would happen to them in regards to their punishment. I say it again, be very careful because the Bible tells us that we cannot have it both ways. God knows what is truly in our hearts. Thus, if we have not asked Jesus to be Lord in our life, and we are not seeking His righteousness, we will stand before Him to answer for our deeds in the world.
This is the same Lord who said the “righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.” We have so much to be thankful for. Let our hearts be right in the sight of our Lord too.