“Let Our Hearts be Broken by the Things that Break the Heart of God”
Greetings. This is a confessional report from OSWM, a Watchman serving behind the walls at a west coast state prison. Blessings to you.
Jesus said that in the last days, violence would increase, and “love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). I witnessed an example of this today – a man in my cell block attempted to commit suicide this morning. It was only the grace of God and an irregular Tier check by a guard that saved the man’s life. I’ll call him Tom.
Tom is a little different – often, inside these walls, just as outside them, the different become targets. Maybe he didn’t like to work-out, or talk sports, or engage in coarse conversations. Perhaps he was to be released earlier than most or did not want to pay for a contraband tattoo. I don’t know for sure – I just know that he became the focus of many jokes and curses, and it overwhelmed him.
It’s interesting how a ‘mob mentality’ quickly develops. Men come and go here each week, but always, a few loud, negative voices sway the masses who follow their lead.
The leaders know that the drive for attention and a sense of belonging is strong, and the fear of becoming a future target is great. Satan pulls the strings on this drama with practiced ease. A manipulator extraordinaire, he veils assaults under the guise of harmless jesting. He magnifies fear to minimize intervention. He whispers that it is best to show love only to those we know well and hold closest.
It is easier to be silent than to speak up. It is easier to ignore than to intervene. I did not join in taunting Tom, but was that enough? Should a Watchman do more than not act?
In Acts 11, newer Gentile believers in Antioch heard that Jewish believers in Judea, more than 300 miles away, were in poverty. They immediately took action. They collected a generous offering and sent it to those they did not know – who lived in a land historically unfriendly to them.
There is a reason the believers in Antioch were the first group to be called Christians (Acts 11:26). To be a Watchman is to be Christ-like. It requires that we more than watch; we act. We do more than pray; we give. Watchmen watch and watchmen act. James 2:15-17 notes the importance of putting “feet to our prayers.” James teaches we must “live-out our faith.”
I wonder if I failed Tom? He was many cells away, and I can tell myself he was too far away to know him well or offer help. I tell myself I would certainly have done something if he was in my cell, and even if he was a cell or two away. But where is the line for watchmen?
For me, is 3 or 4, or 5 cells away beyond my sphere of concern? I shared recreation time with Tom several days a week. There are always about 90 to 110 men in the large gym, and I can try to tell myself he just got lost in the crowd – but did I seek him out?
I can say that the recreation schedule is very limited and that it’s just good stewardship to guard my minutes. But are they my minutes? Are believers in general and Watchmen, particularly, a kind of steward over all things and people in the mission field where God places us?
I can try to justify my inaction by claiming that dealing with my burdens takes priority, and understandably, narrows my focus and diminishes the amount of energy I can allocate to others. But the Bible calls us to “bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:9).
Today I see how I failed my brother. It’s unclear what I could have said or done – but I did not even try to help. I was too burdened and too focused on other things to properly show God’s love to a hurting man in my mission field. The need was evident, but I wasn’t watching well enough to see it.
Tom will live, and I may have an opportunity to see him again. If I do, I will not miss a second chance to share God’s truth and love.
Watchmen, how many Toms will we, in some way, overlook before the Rapture? It’s not good to say, “I’ll wait for a more opportune time.” We do not know how much time we have.
I was reminded of this when I had an unexpected near-fatal incident earlier this year. Watchmen, we must live so that we can say we will “not be ashamed at the judgment” (1 John 2:27).
Let’s make the most of every opportunity (Eph. 5:16) and “live lives worthy of our calling” (Eph. 4:1).
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