Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated,
since you yourselves are in the body also (Hebrews 13:3, NKJV).
It’s obvious that the above admonition to “remember the prisoners…and those who are mistreated” is referring to other believers, since the verse ends with “…you yourselves are in the body ALSO” (emphasis added). Most often, however, this verse is used to encourage believers to minister to prisoners, regardless of the reason they are behind bars or whether or not they are Christians.
That is certainly a valid use of this verse, but even more so is the application to believers who are in prison and/or mistreated simply because they are Christians. And that goes on in countries around the world, each and every day. That very focus is the theme in both my current contemporary series, as well as my stand-alone historical. I’m discovering an interesting difference in the way these books are received, however. Though the contemporary stories of suffering Christians are applauded by some, others have told me they’re uncomfortable and disturbed by reading about something “so depressing going on today.” The historical novel, on the other hand, though dealing with the same topic in a third-century context, doesn’t seem to evoke the same uncomfortable response. Is it because it happened so long ago and therefore doesn’t call us to face the fact that persecution of Christians continues today—in fact, at a much higher rate than at any other time in history?
“Remember the prisoners…and those who are mistreated.” That’s not a suggestion, but rather a command. My next series will take that command a step farther—this time to include the estimated 27 million people around the world (including right here in America!) who are currently enslaved by human traffickers. The Scriptures tell us that we are to “remember” them “as if chained with them.” I must confess that if I were physically enslaved with them, I would suddenly understand another scriptural admonition to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Therefore, I dare not make light of Hebrews 13:3’s command to identify with those who are suffering.
Yesterday, however, God used a seemingly accidental encounter to expand my vision a bit farther. I was in town running errands when I spotted a young homeless couple named Randy and Laurie. I’ve encountered and prayed with them before, and when they saw me they ran toward me and thanked me for always being so kind to them. “Most people won’t even look at us,” they explained. “But you touched us and prayed with us. Thank you.”
I must confess that on other occasions I have averted my eyes so as not to be disturbed by someone’s need, but God says to “remember” them as if I too were in their condition. Thank you, Randy and Laurie, for allowing God to use you to remind me that those who are chained and mistreated can also include the homeless. Sort of gives a whole new meaning to the old saying, “There but for the grace of God,” doesn’t it?
Will you join me in remembering those in chains and those who are mistreated and suffering around the world (and maybe right here in our own hometown) today? Pray without ceasing that God will comfort, protect, and rescue them, for we ourselves “are in the body also.”