Beyond Measure

Jul 15, 2018

by Rev. John Harrison, board member

As I minister to people who have served their time in prison and are returning to the outside world, the strongest pastoral connections often begin with the hard-nosed realism in the gospel, which can be summed up in the verse “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matt. 7:2). This is a message that holds true under the harsh logic of punishment that defines American prisons. It holds up within the economy of vengeance and respect that shapes social order in prison and on the street. It is a message grounded in the authority of everyday life.

“The measure you give will be the measure you get” is a rule that starts every conversation with caution, looking for equity, balance and a clear motive. When the motive for a relationship does not allow for equity and balance, this rule stops that relationship in its tracks. We learn this rule the hard way if our motive for prison ministry is to change the person we are talking to without letting them change us. When the measure we hope to receive does not match the measure we are willing to give, that relationship has no hope of being healthy. It simply will not work if we expect one person to do all the changing. If we have any hope in the gospel to transform a person’s life, it can only begin with a willingness to be transformed.

If we are unwilling to be transformed, we build a wall around our relationships in prison, and we build a wall around our relationship with the Lord. In those moments, we find we are leaning on ourselves instead of on God and leaning on our works instead of God’s grace. It is grace that reminds us to stop pretending we are perfect and step out from behind the walls that cut us off from real connection. When we remember to lean on grace, something amazing happens. “The measure you give will be the measure you get” all of a sudden becomes less defensive, and trust begins to form. We begin to recognize the presence of the Spirit and the hope of a stone being rolled away. After a while, the measures given and the measures received become nothing less than life itself.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to prison, and you will find the risen Lord. Lean on grace and open yourself to be transformed by the people you meet, and you will find new life. There is a stream of living water just waiting to be found. 

Category: grace

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