It takes God’s heart, strength, and eyes to be a prison ministry volunteer. These men and women standing before you are people in need of the same love and forgiveness God showed us. But let’s get real, these men and women have also done things most of us wouldn’t even want to dream about and would consider a nightmare if we did.
I hadn’t struggled with this in over 2 yrs. of ministry until in one of my classes was a man who was in there for beating his wife, but he wasn’t at all repentant about it. The idea completely escaped him that it would be wrong and was convinced God would never allow his marriage to be over. He actually looked at it like he was the one being wrongly persecuted by an enemy.
“Show me how to love the unlovable Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible Forgiveness”
This is where the rubber meets the road in our walk with God. It’s not just fancy words at this point, they will fall flat. It was the first time I’d struggled in how I saw a prisoner. What he did to his wife and how completely convinced he was right in his behavior and how he thought God was behind him in it was all I could see.
“Help me now to do the impossible I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me Forgiveness”
So, thinking it through, let’s also get real with ourselves, how different am I than him? In the eyes of God, my sin is no different. My blindness at times, and maybe even still, is still blindness like his. We can’t see unless God gives us the ability. God reaches us in the places of our blindness and sin by using other people.
Is that man less valuable to God than me or you? No. God goes after the lost. I’m saved…He didn’t come to heal the well, He didn’t come to save the religiously puffed up, He came to set free the captive and break their chains. He said that what we do for one of these we do for Him.
“It’ll clear the bitterness away It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what its power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you”
All that we learn in the Lord Jesus, all that we say about Him and think about Him are put to the test in the hard times and when confronted with situations that require action to be added to our faith. It’s at that point our actions show us what we actually believed and learned.
“It’s the hardest thing to give away And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve”
Forgiveness is something we each have to work out one-on-one with God. “Help me” is how we start. Then God will bring us to a point where we “want to finally set it free” and to a realization of our own condition before God, because unforgiveness is a place where we aren’t seeing the Mercy and Love Jesus gave to us while we were yet sinners. In that place of realization of our conditions we all become equal before God.
“It flies in the face of all your pride It moves away the mad inside
Its always angers own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
Its the whisper in your ear saying Set It Free”
(Song: Forgiveness by Matthew West) (Picture used found in google “free to use or share” search)