Week twenty-one saw Scott hauled off to jail. Well, kind of. Campus Crusade and our church worked together to put together a Christmas outreach for local prisoners and Scott was asked to preach. It was quite an experience.
The prison has a rather tall wall surrounding it that is about 50 feet deep. To enter the prison, the group was brought into the wall and was searched rather heavily. All of the machinery was checked and all of the tracts and Bibles were searched through. Everybody was patted down and scanned. Apparently there had been some recent security issues and they had tightened everything down very tight. Our passports and ID’s were all taken (and returned when we left) too.
When everybody escorted into the prison, they were moved into a rather cold meeting room. It was a chilly morning (in the 30’s) and it was just as cold inside. The prisoners were already waiting as set up was completed and the prisoners were all bundled up in whatever clothes they had. Scott shivered as he got the music equipment ready. The prisoners didn’t seem affected, no doubt use to being exposed to the unabated cold in the prison.
Everybody was assured that the prisoners had to apply to come to the event (dangerous criminals would not be allowed) and there was security in the room. A scan of the room showed about 40 men, not counting the officers. The walls adorned a few simple, Catholic images, and little else. Apparently this was their chapel.
The event started with a few songs of worship and it was awkward from the beginning. It felt more like a show than worship, really. Anyways, after the worship songs and a couple videos, Scott got to share the gospel. Some of the prisoners seemed to respond and some of them didn’t, but the focus of this blog is what happened after the prisoners had been ushered back to their cells.
A guard came up to Altin afterwards and he seemed pretty unhappy. He talked to Altin for a few moments and Altin translated his question. The guard explained that most of the men had killed multiple people and he was mad that we would say there was hope for them to go to heaven. So he asked, “Where do these guys deserve to go?”
Scott’s response was, “The same place I deserve to go if I don’t have Christ paying my penalty.”
The guard was not too excited about that response. How could hardened criminals deserve to go to the same place we do? He angrily stomped away as Altin and Scott looked on. Altin tried to ask him if he would like to understand but he wanted little to do with this Jesus.
Funny enough the guards response isn’t too far off from the Pharisee’s response to Jesus reaching out to the poor, the sick, the tax collectors, and the lowly. Sometimes we wonder where our heart is too. Have we turned the gospel into the good news for the middle class, and the respectable, and the friendly? Or are we seeking out the poor, the hungry, the blind, the murderers, the prostitutes, and every other “unsavable” person that our Lord died for?
May our God turn all of our hearts towards those who God would have us to reach out to rather than those who most closely fit our comfort zone.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)