Jesus Loves Criminals
By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – April 14, 2015)
-- In an article for The Economist magazine entitled, “Who, What,
Where, and Why,” the author estimates that there are roughly 2.4 million
people incarcerated in the United States.
Furthermore, the NAACP reports that there has been a jump in the
numbers of people going to prison: “From 1980 to 2008, the number of
people incarcerated in America quadrupled—from roughly 500,000 to 2.3
million people. Today, the U.S. [makes up] 5% of the world population
and has 25% of [the world's] prisoners.”
These are strong words, usually conjuring up murders, drugs, and
theft. And rightfully so. Many are in prison for these very things. Just
look at a newly released FBI report:
* During 2013, law enforcement made an estimated 11,302,102 arrests
(including 480,360 for violent crimes and 1,559,284 for property
crimes). The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations
(estimated at 1,501,043), larceny-theft (estimated at 1,231,580), and
driving under the influence (estimated at 1,166,824).
* Aggravated assaults (an estimated 724,149 last year) accounted for
the largest percentage of violent crimes reported to law
* Firearms were used in 69 percent of the nation’s murders, 40
percent of robberies, and 21.6 percent of aggravated assaults (weapons
data is not collected on rape incidents).
* There were an estimated 79,770 rapes (legacy definition) reported to law enforcement.
Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.5 billion in
property losses, and burglaries of residential properties accounted for
74 percent of the total reported.
* Larceny-thefts accounted for the largest percentage of property
crimes reported to law enforcement—69.6 percent. (The average value of
property taken during larceny-thefts was $1,259.)
* During 2013, an estimated 699,594 motor vehicles were reported
stolen, and 73.9 percent of those were cars. (Other types of stolen
vehicles included trucks, sport utility vehicles, buses, motorcycles,
motor scooters, all-terrain vehicles, and snowmobiles.)
These statistics are jarring, but no less than we might expect when
it comes to crime. When thinking of the words criminal and prisoner,
however, our minds usually don’t wander to Jesus and the apostle Paul.
But the fact is that both were tried as criminals and spent time in
prison. That's not to suggest that the vast majority of the incarcerated
don't belong there; rather, the point is that Jesus can identify with
those who have been arrested, charged, and punished—regardless of the
justness of the accusations. And more so, Jesus loves criminals. He paid
the ultimate price for rapists, arsonists, burglars, frauds, and
Jesus' interaction with the thief on the cross next to Him showed us
His compassion for the criminal, but more than that, it demonstrated the
path that any sinner must take. While both robbers initially mocked
Jesus, one of them had a change of heart. He rebuked the other man,
saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same
condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our
deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”
He asked Jesus to remember him (and not a moment too soon), and Jesus
rewarded his newfound faith by promising him Paradise. Jesus, of
course, died for all people, but it's telling that, at the moment of His
greatest suffering and heartbreak, separated for the first time from
God by our sin and dying a criminal's death, Jesus redeemed the heart of
An Old Testament word for crime (Hebrew chamac) is also translated as cruelty, and refers to violence, a wrong, or an injustice. According to Merriam-Webster.com, the adjective criminal describes something “morally wrong,” and the noun's root comes from the Latin crimen, simply meaning crime.
When used as a legal term, crime is viewed as a category created by
law—in other words, it's only a crime if a law says it is. Most basic
definitions, however, give it a moral component, implicitly recognizing
that it comes from a higher source. Biblically, there was crime before
there was law (think of Cain and Abel), so law would seem to be a
response to immoral behavior.
Some of God's Top Ten laws—the Ten Commandments—address criminal
behavior, including prohibitions against murder, theft, and slander.
However, the Bible contains not only warnings against crime, but
principles to deal with it, and most importantly, hope to be forgiven
and begin again in Christ. Here are a few
Romans 13:1-4: “Let every soul be subject to the
governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and
the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever
resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist
will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good
works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what
is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s
minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not
bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute
wrath on him who practices evil.”
Proverbs 28:24: “Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, 'What's wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.” (NLT)
Proverbs 5:22: “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin.”
Proverbs 21:7-8: “The violence of the wicked will
destroy them, because they refuse to do justice. The way of a guilty man
is perverse; but as for the pure, his work is right.”
Proverbs 6:12-15: “A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech…[and] with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him
suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.” (ESV)
Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Your understanding of both the nature and consequences of crime, as
well as God's mercy and forgiveness, should form the basis of a plan to
reach a person with the love of God, whether it is someone you know or
someone you have yet to meet. Use the acronym LOVE as a guide:
L—Listen to people. Make a sincere effort to get to
know them and their situation. Whether they are a victim of crime or a
former criminal, listen to their stories.
O—Observe their life. Where are they coming
from—emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually? Find the root of the
issue. Ask yourself, How can I assist them?
V—Voice God’s truth. What does the Bible teach concerning crime, punishment, forgiveness, and restoration?
E—Embrace them with the love of God in Christ. If possible, empathize based on shared experiences, but
 http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/03/americas-prison-population .
 More recent legal definitions of rape have expanded what constitutes rape; most law enforcement
agencies call the old definition the “legacy” definition.
 See Matthew 27:44. Something about the way Jesus handled His suffering must have struck the robber
repented. Whether that or that he finally saw through the bloodied and
bruised face next to him and recognized his Savior, one things is clear:
he encountered Jesus and responded to Him in the right way.
 Luke 23:40-41.
For more information on the Jesus Loves People series, click here: www.jesuslovespeople.com
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