Devouring Hate, Opening Prisons

 

What was she eating? A fish or a duck? I dug out my camera, switched the lens and snuck out behind my house to “Danger Island,” the rock pinnacle just behind our house. It’s the eagles’ favorite hunting ground. We watch them hunt and feast here nearly every day.

 

 

Shall I call this beautiful? The duck was swimming and feeding gracefully in the sea below us, then with a swoop of feather and wind, he’s snatched by talons and borne aloft to the killing ground. It’s feathers are plucked out one by one; it bleeds and is consumed piece by piece right in front of us. One noble bird devouring another.

 

 

It is not lovely to watch. I know deep in my sinews and my gut, the world was not made for this. All creatures bright and great and small were not first made to live on other’s blood. But so it has gone since that dark day in a lost garden.

 

We are not animals or eagles. We need not spill any blood, yet still we devour one another. We devour the ones we love. We nip at strangers we pass on the street; we peck at our neighbors. Sometimes  we use a word or a thought to attack. Sometimes we plot revenges, large or small. Sometimes we even hold a gun. Or a sword. We strike, then run for our lives. Sometime we do nothing while evil men rule----the worst of all.

Ask Peter about this. Ask him about deserting his truest friend. Ask him about lying and saving his own skin and letting them whip his Lord’s instead. Ask him about betraying the one who had rescued him again and again, the one who loved him most in the world. He’ll tell you how it felt.

 

But we don’t need him to tell us, because we know something about this too. We’ve done it too, all of us. We’ve all betrayed the One who loves us most and always. We might have shouted him onto that cross ourselves. He was split open dying while we did nothing, while we ran and took cover. We have let evil men rule and consume. We stood aside watching with a gun or a sword in our hand. To save us and no one else.

You know it’s true. I know it’s true.

This week I am flying far away to sit in a circle of men and women who live behind bars. Men and women who were caught with a weapon in their hand. Or something else. How many times have they run or done nothing or done the wrong thing? More times than they were caught. I am no different.

I have something to tell them. I’m going to tell them about forgiveness. I’m going to tell them about seven men around a fire eating breakfast. Men who chose to save themselves rather than save their best friend. Men who scattered, terrified. Now their friend is here, alive again, and he’s feeding them breakfast. He should be dead. He should be angry. He’s cooking and serving them fish and bread instead.

 

He comes not to judge them or condemn them or punish them. He comes with only one question:

Do you love me?

He does not ask, “Will you ever turn from me again?” He does not ask, “Will you ever make a mistake again?”

His question is for us as well, you and me and the men and women in the prison I am going to, because we were all there too that night in the dark garden when the soldiers came.

Do you love me?

Do you love me?

And he comes after us as well, just as he has done 100 times before, when we were lost, when the car almost hit us, when we fell and survived, when our father abused us. He was there the whole time. Saving us. Loving us onward.

He asks us all one last time, Do you love me?

How can Peter not?

How can you and I not?

How can those women and men not?

Do we see how deep his love? We have thought too long it’s all on us to follow him, to follow him perfectly but when Jesus said “Come, follow after me” it also meant that he would come after us. We ditch him, run the other way, and still he comes. He walks through a storm in the dead of night to reach us. He went under the waters of sin and death then comes bringing breakfast and a whole new life just when we had given up hope in Him—and in ourselves. How can we turn away from that love?

I will tell them this, these beloved men and women who live behind bars, who may not know how loved they are. How forgiven. And how free they can be in that love. It’s never too late.

 

Would you pray for me as I go? I can do nothing on my own.

And I am praying for you, that you would know all this too. That Jesus has stopped at nothing to love you, to save you, to forgive you. He only asks you one question:

 

Do you love me?

 

What will you say?

What will you do?