How I saw God’s Greatness While in Jail

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was able to attend a parole hearing for a friend yesterday. I meet with Manny on a weekly basis along with other guys who are incarcerated in the Omaha Correctional Center. To meet with these guys who seem to have been genuinely converted is such an encouragement. They love to pray, study the word and encourage me with the things they are learning and the holiness that they are pursuing.

As I sat in the parole hearing I was reminded of the words of a friend recently where he said that he has family in jail. He was referring not to kin of the flesh but of the Spirit. So as I was recognized by the parole board as one who was there to support Manny I was struck again with the reality that he is my brother and that God has seen fit to bring him into this facility in order to convert him and make this so. As I answered the woman, it was the most echoing “thank you ma’am” that I have ever uttered. Yes, I am here for him. That is right. I am his brother. We have a bond. We are united to the Lord Jesus Christ, clinging to him for life, forgiveness, hope and joy. I am reminded of this picture in Colossians:

Col. 1.11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

Thanks be to God that he has exalted his greatness through his love, grace, mercy and forgiveness; even to unite people with varied backgrounds in the church, to esteem his beloved Son.

I was intrigued as I listened to the committee discuss and evaluate Manny. They outlined his sentence and the prospect of parole. In their final analysis they voted to grant him parole. The basis for this was his demonstrations of good behavior and desire to live rightly.

It was striking to think that with God no such accommodations or compromises are available or even possible. Divine justice, holiness and goodness forbid that a compromise is possible. Parole from hell is not an option; the wages of sin is…death.

But thanks be to God that he has been pleased to send his Son not to condemn but to save and to rescue a great multitude for himself. This is why I love the gospel! The fact that God does not lesson his sentence or grant parole, based upon anything I could do, but instead he sticks to his word and punishes my sin, through his perfect Son in my place that he might display his goodness in judgment and mercy simultaneously. This is so good for my pride and so therefore, good for my soul.

As we were walking out, the guard who was escorting us asked me if I was a former resident (inmate). He was obviously sizing me up and had concluded that I fit the mold of a convict. I like to think it was my comfort around my prison friends that caused him to say this, but more than likely he thought I looked a bit crooked. I told him that I am a pastor, who by God’s grace had not been imprisoned. That we come in here and are able to teach the Bible to guys and build Christ centered relationships that really do effect change in their lives.

His comment fermented in my mind for a bit. Not only should I have been locked up in a prison but I should have been consigned in an eternal jail suffering the unmitigated and unfailing wrath of Almighty God due to my lawbreaking. But thanks be to God that he is full of mercy in Christ Jesus, for while I was still sinning, helpless, ungodly and an enemy, Christ died for me (Rom. 5).

I am thankful to God for my family in jail and for the way in which he makes me see the greatness of Jesus when I get to hang out visit with them.