Camp, Retreat and Conference Center

Theology Behind Bars

A chaplain in a prison was teaching theology to 15 inmates. On an exam he added a bonus question, asking the men what theology had taught them what they would like to share with those who haven’t experienced incarceration. One man’s response touched me.

“I want you to say that being in prison you are exposed to so much prejudice, hatred, selfishness, loneliness, etc. that you can forget the goodness of God. It is not your surroundings, circumstances, or emotions that dictate who God is. He is the same through all storms.”

Prison can be such a dark place. But so can our world. And the world Jesus entered was dark in many ways. When Zachariah praised God for his son who would be the forerunner of Christ, he ended with these words, “You will make his people know that they can be saved through the forgiveness of their sins. A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful. He will give light to those who live in the dark and in death’s shadow. He will guide us into the way of peace.” Luke 1:77-79 (Gods Word)

Does God really know what we are going through? Can he relate to the prejudice, hatred, selfishness and loneliness the prisoner mentions? The promise of Emmanuel, God with us, is a reality through Jesus. He didn’t stay a baby, and yes he knows about man’s inhumanity to man.

Did he experience prejudice? When asked to check out the Messiah “Nathaniel asked him, ‘From Nazareth? Can anything good come from there?’ Philip told him, ‘Come and see!’” (John 1:46 ISV) Perhaps a modern version might be “Can anything good come out of the ghetto? “

Did Jesus experience hatred? The prophecy of Isiah certainly points to the hateful treatment Jesus would endure. He was wounded for our rebellious acts. “He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds.” Isiah 53:5 (NIV) Hatred often inflicts brutality. Hatred sometimes perverts justice. Hatred always hurts.

Did Jesus ever suffer from others selfishness? Jesus had miraculously brought a dead man back to life. When word of this miracle came to the religion leaders of the day, it was time for a powwow. “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” John 11:48 (NIV) See any selfishness in their position?

What about loneliness? How would you feel if your closest friends deserted you in your time of greatest need? Peter, one of the closest, had just declared, “even if everyone else turns against you, I certainly won’t!” Peter takes off like the rest as Jesus is apprehended. When challenged around a fire he denies that he even knows Jesus. How’s that for being all alone?

We’ve just come through Christmas. When the holiday is over, life returns to normal. The bright lights that brightened the bleak days of winter will no longer cheer us. The anticipation of gifts, family and feasting are now gone. For some, Christmas cards give way to January’s bills, and the need to scrimp because of overspending during the holidays. The crowds who gathered are gone, and we may feel lonely. We face a new year that might bring heartache or joy. We may experience prejudice, hatred, selfishness and loneliness. Through it all, remember that God is with us. Remember the theology of the prisoner…

“I want you to say that being in prison you are exposed to so much prejudice, hatred, selfishness, loneliness, etc. that you can forget the goodness of God. It is not your surroundings, circumstances, or emotions that dictate who God is. He is the same through all storms.”

Comments

Directions

Phone: (570) 488-6129

Mailing Address: PO Box G, Waymart, PA 18472

Newsletter Signup