So many times I’ve heard from people that I’m a great sister when they find out my brother is in prison and I still have a relationship with him. Because I write lovingly about him, they think highly of me, as if they wouldn’t still love their sibling if he or she committed a crime – I think the vast majority of you would still love your sibling, no matter what mistakes they made in life. I’m not special. I don’t walk a special sisterly walk that only a few others dare to walk.
I visit him about once a year for a few hours at a time. I don’t write him as much as I should. I’m terrible at snail mail. Although now that I know about JPay’s email service, I hope to give him more of my writing time. I’m unable to call him, so I have to rely on him calling me. We talk a few times per month. I do send him money every month, but I could send him more. I also send him books and magazines but I’m not consistent with that either.
I pray for him when I think of it. I think of him almost every day, though, and miss him like crazy. But I’m not sister of the year. Many say that simply because I don’t judge my brother, and love him still, despite the crime he committed, I’m somehow amazing. I hear it a lot. I’m not amazing, friends. I’m an average sister, really. I could do so much more. I could make a better effort. And truth be told, he could make a bigger effort with me, too. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but I would go to the ends of the earth to protect my brother. I tell him I love him every chance I get. I cry for him and long for him to be free. I pray for his relationship with Christ. And I don’t see a murderer when I look into his eyes. I see my baby brother. I see my kid brother. I see the boy I knew growing up, before he got sick with a mental illness.
I look through pictures and smile big at our silly relationship. There’s a huge void in our lives with him gone. It’s a pain you can’t imagine. You have to live it to know it. People judge him by his one huge mistake, the crime he committed that he can never take back. I don’t see that when I look at him, I don’t think of that when I think of him. Not because I don’t feel pain for the family who lost their son, and husband, and father – but because he simply isn’t a murderer. He is someone who committed a murder but that doesn’t make him a murderer in my eyes. He’s more than that one action. So much more.
Just like I’m more than my mistakes. And trust me, I’ve got mistakes to be ashamed of, too. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Just some of us make bigger ones, in the eyes of the law, and in the eyes of our fellow man. But I believe all sin is the same in the eyes of the Father. My little white lie, as we like to call them, hurts God’s heart as much as what my brother did nine years ago. And Christ’s blood covered it all. He forgave my brother’s sin just like He has forgiven my sin. I know that is hard for people to swallow. We Christians talk a good talk about grace covering sin, but when confronted with this reality, of the sin of murder being forgiven, we want to raise our eye brows and talk away that truth, because how could God love and forgive a man who took the life of another man. Yet all through the Bible God loved, forgave, and used many people who committed great sin.
Grace isn’t just for the seemingly perfect. It isn’t just for little white lies, or “small” sins that we gloss over every day. No. Grace covers all sin, and grace is the reason God can look at my brother and see his heart, and not his actions. And if God can see into the heart of my brother, looking past his sin, then certainly I can also, because we’ve been called to love one another as Christ loves us.
It’s really not as scary as it sounds, either. Once you see the heart of the person, and not the crime, you fall in love with their eternal spirit – and with their humanity. We’re all human, even if we throw away our “criminals” and try to forget about them, they are still human, humans that made a terrible mistake. Now, yes, there are men and women who are overcome by evil. There are those that you cannot trust, those you might not be able to make a difference with in a personal way, but they could surely use your prayers, because God can change any heart, and heal any mind, and change any life. Dare I say, the majority of the criminals in prison are just messed up people, who made messed up decisions, who need God’s love to make them whole again.
So, if loving my brother like Christ loves me makes me a hero, then so be it, but I’m telling you right now, I’m no hero. I’m just a sister who loves her brother. I’m just a sister who misses her brother. I’m just a sister who longs to hold her brother and tell him it’ll be okay. I’m just a sister of a man who needs to know Jesus loves him no matter what he’s done, said, thought of, etc – and that God’s grace is all he really needs to live an extraordinary life, even in prison. God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, I pray for my brother. And in heaven there is no sickness, no mental illness, no brokenness, no pain, and no sorrow – I confess God’s will be done in my brother’s life, here on earth, as in heaven.
And I encourage you to live boldly in grace – receiving it and giving it. I pray that you would encounter the radical grace of God, and the radical love of God, so that you could look into the eyes of a “murderer” and not see any sin, any crime, only see the loved child of God standing before you.