“The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. (William Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice)
I read a recent story of a man who had been arrested because he owed about $75,000 in child support. I wondered what good it would do to put him in prison. It reminded me of the medieval debtor’s prison. He will be sentence to 5-10 years where he will get 3 meals a day, a roof over his head and a TV for entertainment. He will never pay back what he owes, and the whole thing is pointless. I then began thinking about all the drug addicts in prison. The USA is one a handful of countries that treat addiction as a crime. Many countries treat it as an illness and work hard to reform addicts into contributing members of our society. Putting an addict in prison just gives them three meals a day, a roof over their heads and they can get all the drugs they want in relative safety.
If you have ever had a close relative, child, parent, spouse who had an addition problem then you probably realize how difficult it is for them to stop using their drug of choice. Doesn’t it make more sense to try and rehabilitate these people than just send them to jail.
I am aware that those arrested for drunk driving are usually sent to some type of 12 step meeting or other rehabilitation program. The problem is that the addict will not quit using until they are ready. You would think the man in the photo would have reached bottom already, but it is obvious he had not. Why not? No one knows except the individual themselves. Whatever pain, whatever internal demons s/he is trying to cure with the substance of choice it is up to them to figure out that going through the pain is easier than living with the consequences of using. Things like automobile accidents, overdosing, losing their jobs and families are sometimes just not enough. It is, at this point, between God and the addict to find rock bottom and turn to others for help.
Speaking of God, here is another complication. Many people believe that the addict is going straight to Hell for their actions caused by the need for their drugs or alcohol. Robbery, murder, breaking and entering, drunk driving resulting in the death of an innocent person – all of these seem to warrant an eternity in Hell. However, this is where I get mired down in theology and the different aspects of God.
He is depicted as being first Love, then all holy, all merciful, all just, all knowing, good in all that He does, unchanging, faithful, kind, etc. So, if the addict is sick or simply unable to quit would an all knowing, all just, merciful God commit a sick person to Hell for all eternity?
Personally, I cannot have faith in a loving God that would commit such an egregious act of injustice. For it would be unjust to send a person to Hell for an act of which they have no control. So what is the answer. Does God allow a murderer into Heaven? Does He let a pedophile on the loose with the millions of children in Heaven? Personally, I don’t think so.
In the book, The Shack by William P. Young, he posits that more than anything else God wants a relationship with us, and not just any relationship – a love relationship since God is love first and foremost. Young also tells of an experience in the book were God as the Holy Spirit tells him to put two of his children on one side and two of his children on the other side. Then the Holy Spirit tells him to choose two to go to Heaven and two to go to Hell.
This is an impossible choice for any parent, and God is Abba, Daddy, Father of us all, and do you think He wants to choose which of His children will live with Him and which will be given to the devil. Personally, I don’t think so. It is not that I don’t believe in Hell or the devil. It’s just that I believe God is bigger, wiser, more loving and more merciful than the box we have put Him in.
Plato tells his students a story about some men who lived all their life in a cave and never saw any light at all. One day the veil on their cave is removed and light comes shining through. Some of the men go towards the light welcoming its warming presences. However, some of the men are afraid of it and move further into the darkness because they cannot imagine what it is or how it could be of benefit to them.
I think this is what happens when we pass on. Jesus meets each of us and he is full of light and love and we are drawn to Him. However, there are souls so dark, so lost, so afraid that they pull away from the light and sink even further into their darkness. God is, and always was, a gentleman. He won’t force himself on anyone. But He gives us a choice, one last chance to ask for His help. We can choose the light or we can continue on into the darkness.
“In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” Luke 13:28