The current debate about whether prisoners should be allowed to vote is very evocative one. It raises all sorts of issues about fairness and whether sentencing for crimes should be punitive or remedial. The question is, are we putting convicted persons in prison to reform them or to punish them? Depending on what their crime is there must be an element of both. As a regular visitor to prison (in a pastoral role!) I am very aware of how prison affects the individual.
Essentially they are in prison because they are guilty. Breaking the law has consequences and a withdrawal of privileges is part of that. Our society has chosen to restrict a person's liberties by taking them out of society and housing them in prison. Have we become so soft on reality that we cannot see that the rights of the individual were forfeited by them when they committed their crime? I am not suggesting for a moment that a person cannot be reformed or forgiven. I believe as a Christian very strongly in the doctrine of redemption. But I believe that to enjoy forgiveness the consequences of wrong must be faced and accounted for. Personally God has provided a basis for our forgiveness through the death of his Son, Jesus.
As a society we have responsibilities to both the general public and to the offenders. For the benefit of all we must ensure that the penalty for each crime is appropriate. We must ensure that when an individual has served their sentence that the result is that they have been educated to once again enjoy the liberties of life in the community. But in all of this we should not confuse fairness to the criminal with just punishment for crimes committed.
Feel free to download my latest podcast from seekthetruth.org.uk. Why me? is the latest talk. Why is life so hard for some and not for others? Is it fair? Have a listen, see what you think.
Louise Jones won Channel 4 News best young blogger competition, in November, when you read the following extracts from her article about Jordan Rice you will understand why.
‘I've lost count of the amount of times I've rambled on about teenagers being viewed negatively in the press, with stories of truancy, crime, killings, drugs, alcohol, pregnancies, Do you know who Jordan Rice is? I don't suspect you do. Jordan Rice is 13 years old and comes from Toowoomba, Australia. Jordan Rice lives with his mum, dad and 10 year old brother Blake and went to buy his school uniform earlier this week. At around 2pm on Monday Jordan, Blake and his mother are in the car on the way back from the shops.
The Australian floods have caused destruction this past week, with people dead and areas the size of France extinct under tonnes of water. Toowoomba clearly seemed unaffected and not at risk from this scene, until water started to rise around the Rice family's car. Usually when there's a small flood on a road, driving through it is AMAZING. The water sprays up in a wave against the car and you feel like Moses parting the Red Sea. But what if the water kept rising? Rising enough to cut your engine out? Stranded in a lake of dirty murderous water? It's not stopping. It's half way up your car door now. If you're not careful you won't be able to get out. Not so fun now is it? Your mum's panicking. She's called the emergency services who have told her to stay in the car. Stay in the car?! The water's rising faster now and it's coming into the car. You have no choice but to escape onto the roof.
No one tried to help this little family….. But one old man grabbed a rope, tied it around himself and jumped into the flood. If you think the situation couldn't get worse and seems to be getting better, think again. Jordan is petrified of water and can't swim. Jordan wants to get on dry land as fast as possible because this is his worse nightmare. Hope is swimming towards him though - the old man is going to save him, right? Jordan refused to be rescued until his little brother was safe. He was willing to risk death to save Blake. What's your relationship with your siblings like? Quarrel a lot? Fight? Compete for attention? At 13 these features of sibling rivalry are likely to be at its highest point. Now think about YOU being in this situation. You could be swept away in a torrent of violent floods at any moment, it's instinct to find a way of survival FAST. You don't think of anyone else but yourself. Selfish? Possibly. But it's your life and something inside tells you to do anything to live it. So if at 13 years old someone was there in front of you, willing to save you at that very moment and take you to safety, would you say no? Even if others close to you were there too? If your mother was saying "Go! Go with the nice man!" Or would you say no and save your little brother first?
The old man didn't have time to argue. The rope was fraying and water was still rising, so he tied the rope around Blake and took him to land. He swam back out to save the other two, there was time, he could do it. But the rope broke. It couldn't take the strain of the flood and the weight of the people. Jordan and his mother had no hope. They were gone. Taken by the churning torrent of brown water they were swept away, but managed to cling to a tree...before they loosened their grip and accepted their fate. Blake was left the only survivor… Reunited with his father to become a family of 2.’
The Promised Land
Louise likened the parting of the waters to that of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, she could of course have quoted Joshua and the parting of the River Jordan when the children of Israel entered Canaan. Joshua ch’s 3 and 4 give the details of this event. “And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.” They were commanded to take twelve stones from the midst of Jordan and erect them as a memorial to this act of deliverance.
Taken to Heaven
The waters of Jordan parted again when Elijah and Elisha went t over on dry ground, “And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground…… And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
In 2Kings ch.5 Elisha sent the leper Naaman to Jordan to dip seven times. He believed and obeyed, and was healed.
Voice from Heaven
Many years later the feet of Jesus stood in the Jordan when John baptized him. It was not the waters that were opened that day but Heaven itself “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” From that time Christ’s public ministry began, culminating at Calvary, dying for sinners such as us. Remember Christ’s love and sacrifice and Jordan’s too! God bless.
Written by Stan Burditt for Stephen G Baker
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