In this final chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews the Lord says,” ”Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment.”
A few years ago I had a traffic violation that was recorded as a possible misdemeanor. Months later someone misread it as a possible felony. So, coming in from golf one afternoon a half year after the violation I was met by two big policeman who put me in jail, giving me a long night’s and a day’s experience of what life there is like. By five the next evening my lawyer had me out of there. It was unpleasant, but I am glad to have chatted and played cards with young men who wait on with not even going to trial.
Recently when someone asked me what those men were jail for the answer that popped out of my lips was, “They were there for lack of a lawyer.”
When we think of Jesus saying, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” we usually take him to mean, “Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself,” but he could also mean, “Love your neighbor as though he or she were yourself.”
That’s what he could mean in today’s reading where he tells us to be mindful of prisoners. It helps to sympathize with prisoners. It is a bigger still to empathize with them, sharing their emptiness in losing all their freedom.