In a conversation at our table at a recent community meal for the homeless and needy, we talked about a guy who came to an earlier meal drunk and disorderly and was consequently banned from the bus temporarily. Someone remarked that we have to realize that people have weaknesses.
For sure, we all have weaknesses. It’s just a matter of what kind and to what degree.
We need to reach out to help people who become slaves to alcohol or other substances, to food, material things, romantic relationships and so on. Throughout history, humans have worshipped false gods, idols. A woman said of her then boyfriend that he thinks he can find the answer to problems in the bottle.
Today, drug abuse has become an epidemic! In lower Bucks County, PA, I know more than a dozen people who have a drug problem. And a few who abuse alcohol.
Why? “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” -2nd Corinthians 4:4
I remember an interview years ago with a minister who reached out to gangs and troubled youths to try to resolve problems. The interviewer asked him what he would do before he could help them change – if a group of thugs closed in on him in an alley. “Then I would put on my P.F. Flyers and run,” he quipped.
The point is that when people engage in destructive, anti-social behavior, the only recourse is to restrain that behavior. Actions have consequences, and when other people are offended or hurt by someone’s behavior, justice demands that they answer for their actions.
But offenders need to have an opportunity to help themselves and work on resolving their problems, overcoming their weaknesses. A victim of someone with a weakness told me that if he were ever going to file a complaint, he would insist to the authorities that the offender be offered treatment in lieu of a fine or other punishment.
I once had a difference of opinion with a law enforcement ranger at a Pennsylvania State Park where I worked about crime. The ranger’s take was that once someone got into the criminal system, he automatically became a career criminal. That someone who enters the criminal system is a hopeless case, trapped in a pattern of sin and criminality was a prevailing view held in the prison system more than 150 years ago, and to some extent today. To counter that view, I cited the case of the short story writer known as O. Henry, who was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement. In jail, O. Henry spent his time doing constructive things, including writing. He was released after three years for good behavior and then continued to be a productive, law abiding member of society. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O._Henry
“He was being punished!”, the ranger snapped. He then Augustly said that my view doesn’t agree with the state of Pennsylvania. That didn’t convince me. I don’t subscribe to the view that just because the state decrees something, like King Ozymandias, it doesn’t mean it’s so. The state is not infallible. It is not God! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozymandias
I believe that people can be restored, their weaknesses overcome. The Bible abounds with examples of people God strengthened, made right. You should read it sometime. The problem with our culture today is that we took God out of the picture.
People can change. But they have to be willing to work on their weaknesses. We should at least offer help. As Lord Alfred Hayes used to say on World Federation Wrestling when he promoted an aftershave that women like men to wear, “the rest is up to you.”
No matter how far you’ve fallen, God can restore you.
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” -Joel 2:25