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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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Is Your Church Ready to Care for Those Reentering Society?

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Churches have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to welcome former prisoners home.

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Imagine this scenario: You have been locked up in prison for years and are getting ready for your release. For years, you have lived in a place unlike any other in our society. You are in a world where, every moment of every day, you are reminded of the worst thing you have ever done. Your past even haunts you in your dreams.

Behind bars, you are not known by your name, but by the number on your prison jumpsuit. After years of being locked up, you have been forgotten by family, friends, and your community. You have not received a visitor or a letter from outside these walls in a long time. You are in a place where violence could be around any corner and decision-making has been stripped from you.

For years, this world is all you have known. But soon, you will suddenly be released back into your community, facing a litany of parole conditions and the anxiety of trying to figure out how to transition into life in the outside world without messing up again.

This is the experience of thousands of men and women who are released from prison every year.

I have been involved in prison ministry for 14 years, and I have never met a prisoner who wasn’t nervous about leaving the prison walls. Some are downright terrified.

There are 2.4 million people who are incarcerated in the United States—by far the highest number of prisoners per capita in the world—and 95 percent of them will one day be released to their communities.

You may think that once someone has served his or her time, the punishment is complete and he or she is rehabilitated; the person can move on with life with the expectation that he or she won’t get into trouble again.

The Challenges of Reentry

But the sobering reality is that 67 percent of those who ...

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