Thursday, May 17, 2012

Behind Prison Walls

When Chuck Colson died on April 21, people remembered him as one of two things:  President Nixon's "hatchet man" in the Watergate Scandal, or a leader in Christian evangelical circles.  He was both of those things, and I imagine he was much more, too.

After his conversion (which, by the way, was after his involvement in the whole Watergate thing), he served time in prison and then founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry that has shared the love of Christ with inmates all over the world.  Because he was a prisoner, he could empathize with prison inmates in a way that many of us cannot.  He understood the brokenness, the sense of isolation, the despondency.  He went to them personally, telling them that God loves them, that He sent His Son to die for them, that there is hope, even for them.  Many of those prisoners trusted Christ, and some are now following in Colson's footsteps, reaching out to others as he reached out to them.  

I was reading an article recently about Colson, and the author noted how God is not a respecter of persons.  He extends his offer of salvation to the entire world.  As the author put it, "The worship arising behind prison walls sounds just as sweet to God as the prayers from the church pews."  I think I often forget this.  I feel all cozy and justified on Sunday morning, but I often forget that there was a time when I was a prisoner, too.  I wasn't incarcerated, but I was a captive --  to my sin, to my pride, to my hopeless despair.  And then Jesus came one night and set me free. 

I'm told that when a convict is released from prison after serving time, there is (typically) a far greater appreciation for freedom.  Similarly, at those times when I give serious remembrance to my life before Christ, my self-righteousness and pride are shattered like glass, and I feel what it was like to be a prisoner.  I remember.  And it's at those times when Jesus is sweeter to me than on any Sunday morning.  He becomes to me once again what He should be at every waking and sleeping moment:  Rescuer, Hero, Lovingkindness, Friend.

Chuck Colson walked in the footsteps of Jesus by taking the good news of salvation to the dregs of society.  He has left a legacy, and I am grateful to him for that.

Really though, we are all the dregs, every one of us, and we all need a Savior.  We are masters at disguise, but God is not fooled.  He looks at us behind our prison bars with pity and love, and He waits for us to step out toward Him, and sing.

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