Today’s thoughts come by way of one of our readers who spends a good deal of his time working with people in prison. What he finds out is that there is an advantage to being in prison when it comes to spiritual insight and daily walk.
First, you are at your worst. Certain conclusions about yourself are inevitable. It turns out these conclusions are actually true for all of us in a spiritual sense, but in prison they are obvious and unavoidable. “The best opportunity for God to demonstrate His grace and show Himself strong,” he writes, “is among the dysfunctional, weak, and hopelessly messed-up: people with major, impossible problems.” Well aren’t we all hopelessly messed up? We just have too many ways of hiding it out here, from ourselves and from others.
“We on the outside have it way too easy, and our ‘Christian lifestyle’ is too often simply the convenience and blessing of following spiritual laws that work, and not the product of being birthed (metamorphosed) into a new (spiritual) dimension through co-experiencing our death and resurrection with and in Christ.”
Indeed, this is the very thing we are learning right now from 2 Corinthians 4:8-12, that real ministry springs from sharing in both the death and resurrection of Christ. The death we experience every day in that we carry around the sentence of death in our bodies (the cross being God’s grand statement on the best we can do), so that we can experience his resurrection through the Spirit of God alive in our hearts every moment of every day.
“That’s why the New Testament teaches so much about the relationship between suffering and the kingdom of God,” our friend goes on the write. “Paul taught that ‘we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). Why? Because in the ‘comfort zone’ we don’t really know ourselves, too easily misjudge and criticize others, and have little motivation to seek to be intimate with God or getting involved in helping others.”
He goes on to point out that the greatest challenge to prisoners who have become Christians behind bars and have grown through studying God’s word and spending time with other Christian inmates, is not the challenge of being in prison, but the challenge of getting out. Will they maintain their daily dependence upon Christ without the constant reminder the prison environment gives them of how much they need it?
As for you and me, who live very day in an illusion of being outside of prison bars, we would do well to visit and observe a prison ministry, take part in one, or at the least, imagine ourselves behind bars today, where we all deserve to be for what we have done, and then imagine our inner freedom in Christ — a freedom that defies those bars, real or imagined, with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the only way we will begin to experience that spiritual metamorphosis our friend has written about. Transformation comes in going from death to life on a continuous basis.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)