Jump Start # 2382
Hebrews 13:3 “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”
Our verse is one of the benefits of fellowship. Comfort, support, understanding, love all flow freely among brethren who are in fellowship. Here, as the final sentences of Hebrew are being written, there is a reminder to remember the prisoners. Remember them, as if you were in prison with them. Now, that’s a thought.
I have visited many jails and prisons. I met the boxer Mike Tyson when I was visiting someone in prison. Each week I’d be there. Each week he’d say, “Hey, preacher-man.” His arms were bigger than my waist. I had a Bible study with a guy who was serving a life sentence. He was in a federal prison. That place was scary. The guards were scary. The bars were scary. The inmates were scary.
Our verse has a unique twist to it. It’s not intended to be slanted toward any and all prisoners. There are those who belong behind bars because of the crimes that they committed. There are some who probably will never be released from prison. What they did was so evil and wicked that one lifetime in prison doesn’t seem to be enough.
Those in prison, the front part of our verse, seems connected to those who are ill-treated, the middle part of our verse, and tied with being in the body, as the verse ends. The prisoners, the ill-treated were brethren. Throughout Hebrews, there is a strong undertone of persecution. Some had suffered. Some were made public spectacles. They had earlier shown sympathy to prisoners (10:34) and even joyfully accepted the seizure of their property. So, it is fitting contextually, that he reminds those on the outside to remember their brethren on the inside of prison.
Remember them as though you were in prison with them. Our prisons today are tough. Back then, in Bible times, there are no words to describe how dark, dirty, and poorly treated the prisoners were. Hours drag on when in prison. There is nothing to do and no place to go. The food back then would have been terrible. You wouldn’t have an Aunt Bee bringing a fried chicken dinner to the Mayberry jail. Rats and mice would be common. No showers. Toilet was likely a corner wall. Peter was chained when in prison. Paul was chained when in prison.
How were those on the outside to “remember” those on the inside?
First, we remember them through prayers. Although those on the outside may be limited in what they could do, God can do all kinds of things. God has done all kinds of things. God heard the prayers of His people when they were crying in Egypt. God did not forget Joseph when he was in prison. Peter, and later, Paul were remembered by the Lord when in prison. Put yourself there. What would you want done if you were the one in prison? Pray. Pray earnestly.
Second, when possible, they ought to go and visit. Jesus said in the judgment parable, “I was in prison and you visited me.” Paul had company when in prison. In those times, since the one locked up was because of his faith, you too, may be arrested. That’s a risk and a chance one had to take. Letting those on the inside know that their names were being lifted up to God is comforting.
Third, encourage the families of those in prison. Keep the light of faith burning strong. Remind them of what God’s people endured in times past will help. Care for them. Do what you can is important.
Now, we don’t know of any in this country who are in prison because of their faith. In other places of the world, some are roughly treated, persecuted and even put in prison because of their faith. Church buildings have been set on fire, preachers have been shot in Nigeria. But, thankfully, not here. Not now. Not yet. But what about these same application points towards someone in our faith who has cancer? What can I do? I’m not a doctor? Remember them, as if you had cancer yourself. What would you like done for you? Words of comfort. Cards of encouragement. Prayers. Support for the family.
What about those who are mourning? A dear family member has passed. Put yourself in their shoes. What would help you? What would you like done? Someone to come by and talk. Someone to bring some food. Someone to take care of things such as yard work.
What about those families who have one overseas in the military? Put yourself in their shoes. Be there. Encourage. Help with the kids. Give a gift card. Check in on them. Pray.
It is interesting that the Hebrew writer uses the word “remember.” We remember the Lord’s death each week through the Lord’s Supper. We remember those who have led us and taught us and now we imitate their faith, Hebrews tells us. But here is something else. Remember those who are in prison. Remember those who are suffering. Remember.
One of the worst plights of humanity is to feel forgotten. No one remembers. Loneliness has been called the modern leprosy. Even in a crowded church building or a house full of people, one can feel alone. Loneliness is more than simply being by yourself. It’s a state of the mind. It is negative. It’s feeling that no one understands you nor your situation. Loneliness sits along side of discouragement and depression. The image of a guy sitting alone at the bar, drowning his sorrows in alcohol, or a person sitting in their bedroom with the door closed, feeling sad, and feeling left out and forgotten is the picture of loneliness. As those feelings spiral downward, the thoughts of suicide fill the heart. No one will miss me and no one cares is the beginning of the end for some folks.
Prisoners locked away behind bars because of their faith. They are not forgotten. They are not alone. They are remembered by God’s mighty people. Maybe we could do better at letting folks know that we are thinking about them. Maybe letting folks know that we are praying for them is something we ought to share. Maybe dropping someone a card, a text or an email, just to let them know that you are thinking about them.
Imagine if every single person in the congregation got a card or a text once a year from one of the elders, just thanking them for being a member and letting them know that he was thinking about them. Imagine the good that would do! I haven’t forgotten you.
It shouldn’t take a person being sent to prison before this principle is used. We ought to be remembering one another all the time. Our fellowship ought to be powerful and strong. It ought to really mean something.
Don’t forget to remember…it’s important.