Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”
When we come to the New Testament we often find that the authors of the epistles divide their letters into two sections. The first section of an epistle often focuses on doctrine, and the second half is usually an exhortation on how to live in light of this teaching. This style of composition is evident in the writings of the apostle Paul. For example, we can see in the book of Romans how the majority of chapters 1–11 deals with doctrines like justification and union with Christ, while chapters 12–16 are filled with practical application.
As we look at the letter of Hebrews, we find that the author employs a similar style. In chapters 1–11, the author focuses primarily on the supremacy of Christ and the new covenant. Chapters 12–13 inform us as to how we must live in light of these great truths.
We must live in a way that reflects the reality of the Gospel. We must do things in keeping with our new, spiritual nature. We now look for peace and for holiness (12:14). Gratitude, not bitterness, must define our way of life (v. 15). We must flee sexual immorality (v. 16) and worship the Lord with reverence and awe (v. 28).
As we do these things, we find not only that we are living according to our new nature but also that we are strengthening ourselves for the race ahead (v v. 12–13). This is especially true as we love our brothers (13:1). When we show love for other Christians, we encourage them to cling to Jesus and they motivate us to do the same.
Today’s passage gives us a specific way to show love to our brothers. We are told to remember those who are in prison and who are in the body of Christ since, like them, we are also a part of His body (v. 3). This verse was pertinent to the original audience since so many of them were imprisoned for their confession.
Around the world today many are imprisoned for their faith. Remembering them means we can pray for their release or pressure their governments to end religious persecution. But we should also remember brothers and sisters who are imprisoned for less noble reasons. Sometimes even true Christians commit crimes and end up in prison. Showing brotherly love to them means we visit them, pray for them, and help repentant offenders be restored to the church body.
Oftentimes when people are sent to prison, most of their friends and family turn their backs on them. In the body of Christ, however, this is not as it should be. If you know anyone in prison, make sure to take the time to visit and write to them if possible. If there is a prison ministry in your area, pray about whether you need to support it.