"When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand." (Luke 21: 28)
There is a bit of chill in the northern Florida air. Not enough to last all morning, but plenty to shock me awake.
As I make my way from the prison’s front gate through the quarter-mile-long fence tunnel, the main hall of Florida’s death row inside is showing signs of life.
Escort officers deliver the men from the back — where their cells are — to the rooms up front that we use for spiritual advisor appointments.
After exchanging greetings and updates on our families, my spiritual advisee and I settle into the meat of our meeting.
“So, what do you think is going to happen to all of us back here?” he asks with some trepidation.
“Well, man,” I reply, “your question comes right out of the Scriptures for the start of Advent. Let me read a few phrases and you signal whether they fit with you today.”
“Sure thing,” he laughs, “I’ll give you a thumbs up for yes.”
“Men are fainting from fear at the things coming upon the world (Luke 21:26).”
He laughs heartily and slips into what I call his military delivery, crafted and honed from years of overseas service behind enemy lines.
“There’s a zillion things going on that men could faint from,” he begins. “Russia’s hypersonic nuclear missiles, China’s belligerence in the South China Sea, the Christmas wave of Covid, and don’t forget the worries about hyperinflation!”
“And thus it has always been,” I spread my hands over the table as if wrapping all these fears in a bundle for dumping in the trash. “What does Scripture tell us to do in response to the world’s insanity?”
“It’s right here in verse 28,” he struggles to point at his open Bible with his shoulder because his hands are immobilized by the new regulation manacles. “When these things begin to take place, straighten up, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).”
“Does that make sense to you, sitting in here?” I ask hesitantly.
“No, it does not seem to make sense. But I know Jesus doesn’t lie.”
“So, once again, our hope is based on who Jesus said he is, and what he promised to do.”
“You can take that to the bank!” My friend’s manacles thump his emphasis on the worn-out table between us. Then he smiles broadly. “Except there probably won’t be any banks or money left.”
“Good thing our faith is in Jesus and not in the dollar or the ruble or the yen.” I laugh. “And today’s Epistle talks about love of the Other, wishing that each of us would increase in our love for the Other!”
“Brother Dale, how can we love someone while we execute them? How does that work?”
“I can’t get there,” I shrug. “Jesus told us to show mercy to others in order that we might receive mercy from God.”
“Are you saying that God’s mercy is conditional?”
“Yes, and he modeled mercy for us in the most extreme circumstances, asking God’s forgiveness on those who were killing him while they were killing him. I’ve been with many people when they were dying: lawyers, engineers, professors, politicians, even inmates. No one has ever asked me to pray for justice, for God to give them what they deserve. They all asked me to pray for God to be merciful to them.”
"We all know God’s answer,” my friend nods softly. “As you are merciful to others, so God will be merciful to you (Matthew 5:7).”
“Showing mercy to others is like putting money in the bank – God’s mercy bank.” I pause for a moment and then add, “So, brother, how’s your balance in God’s mercy bank? You’re not overdrawn, are you?”
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