“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3).”
When I was in seminary, once a month my professor would visit the state penitentiary to preach the gospel. He would invite his students to join him and minister to the prisoners there. The first time he extended the invitation to me, I gladly accepted the offer.
Before we got the green light to go, any student who wanted to join the professor had to fill out paperwork and get a background check done. Next, when we entered the facility, all of us were patted down and asked several questions.
It was more intense than I expected it would be to get into the actual prison and participate in this important evangelism opportunity, but it was well worth it.
We followed our professor down this long metallic hall and into a large empty auditorium. Approximately 30 minutes later, there was an announcement on the intercom informing the inmates there would be a voluntary church service.
Moments later, hundreds of prisoners started marching in and taking their seats. You could tell they were enthusiastic and joyful to listen to God’s word.
The sermon was incredible. Our professor preached on sin, forgiveness, and salvation found in Jesus Christ. He clearly focused on the gospel that God saves sinners and salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
He also stressed the importance of being humble—allowing the Holy Spirit to pervade our hearts, minds, and souls. The inmates and the students had a great time!
After the service, I talked with a young man about his relationship with God. He told me there were things he regretted from his past, but he is no longer the same individual. Then he shared his personal testimony with me about how God had given him a new zeal and purpose to live a godly life.
In fact, this man had a bag full of theology books with him and was an avid reader. He told me he was preparing to be a pastor someday. I prayed with him to end this great experience.
I originally thought the prisoners would be blessed by us. However, they blessed me. I saw the zeal and love they had for the Lord. I realized that when everything is taken from you, and all you have is a cold jail cell, it makes you think more deeply about the fundamental questions in life.
That’s why these prisoners were humble, gracious, and eager to learn—because they had no distractions. While they lost material comfort, I think they gained spiritual solace.Tweet
The writer of Hebrews exhorts believers to continually remember those who are in prison. There are prisoners who committed crimes and are being justly punished for what they did. On the other hand, some inmates may have been incarcerated without substantial evidence and could be serving a sentence for a crime they never perpetrated.
Regardless, every convict is created in the image of God and deserves to hear the gospel of reconciliation. Therefore, it’s essential that believers do not forget but remember humans that are locked up.
Inmates have families. They have emotions just like we do. Oftentimes, they are mistreated and frowned upon by society. It’s important that Christians show the love of Jesus to them. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
The pronoun whoever includes incarcerated people. In a world of cruelty, It’s essential these individuals feel warmly embraced by Christians who serve the God of love and grace. Let’s pray!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gospel of reconciliation. Thank you for granting forgiveness to all who repent and believe in the gospel. I pray for all the prisoners in this world who feel hopeless and in despair. Whether they are guilty or innocent makes no difference. For you sent your Son to be the propitiation of their sins. May they find peace and comfort in their affliction. God, have compassion on them and grant mercy to all who trust in you. In Jesus name. Amen.
Article written by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)
Thanks for sharing this inspiring journey of Christian witness. An acquaintance from years ago served on the pastoral staff at a state prison. I was blessed to hear his testament of his ministry.