Summary: Consider the biblical principle of restitution in the wake of rising prison population and what we as Christians can do

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A Biblical Response to Crime – Restitution

BY Rev. Andrew Chan, PBC, Vancouver, BC

June 2001

Text: Ex.22:1-15

My purpose today is to help you to understand that the Biblical principle of restitution. Today, we have increased prison population, that’s a fact and also the fact is - people reoffend once they are out. Is there another way to make some headway into crime and crime prevention? Are current methods really adequate to deal with such a massive problem,? What should Christian people like you and I think when it comes to these issues that society faces? How can you and I make a difference? If we start with praying, and we should, how can we even pray intelligently?

In an article called “Redeeming Prisoners” that appeared in CT mag.(March 1, 1999 Vol. 43, No. 3, Page 27)

, Steve Rabey reported:

Crime rates in the United States have been steadily falling this decade, but the declines have not slowed the growth of the nation’s prison population. Due in part to a wave of get-tough laws, many of them requiring longer sentences, almost 1.8 million Americans are incarcerated, giving the land of the free the second-highest confinement rate in the world behind only Russia.

No doubt the problems we have here in Canada are similar, given the fact that more and more public funds are being used to maintain and build prisons. I believe this has to be a concern among us evangelical Christians as we attempt to live out what it means to be ministers of reconciliation in a world that wants retribution. It is much easier (but it seems costlier) to just lock em up and throw away the key and forget about those convicted criminals. As Rabey further noted:

America’s punishment-heavy approach to crime carries a big price tag. State and federal governments, faced with prison overcrowding problems, are spending billions of dollars on new prison-construction projects, or on contracts with a growing industry of private "corrections" firms.

And many observers say the criminal- justice system exacts an even HIGHER SOCIAL COSTS. Studies have found that as many as 75 PERCENT of those released from jails or prisons will be back behind bars within four years, and in many cases, these men, women, and juveniles have neither the desire nor the ability to become productive members of society.

"Our current system of retributive justice is focused on who did what, and how much we are going to hurt them for doing it," says Emmett Solomon, a Southern Baptist from Huntsville, Texas, who has been working in prisons since 1956.

What needs to be seen here is current practices has very little redeeming value, and lacks any sense of reforming and helping prisoners. The Bible surely does not encourage us to merely lock em up and throw away the key. God’s Word say in Heb.13:1-3 (NLT):

Continue to love each other with true Christian love. 2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! 3 DON’T FORGET ABOUT THOSE IN PRISON. Suffer with them as though you were there yourself. Share the sorrow of those being mistreated, as though you feel their pain in your own bodies.

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