MINISTRIES

ARTICLES

VOLUNTEERS

STAFF

CONTACT US

ADVISORY BOARD

SCHEDULE

DONATIONS

RESOURCES

FREE BEHIND BARS

By Don Smarto

Are some prisoners authentic Christians? Are some inmates freer than some church people?

At first glance, these questions seem simplistic. Those in Prison Ministry know many offenders are authentic Christians. But how can a man or woman behind walls, razor ribbon, bars, and heavy metal doors be more free than people in the “free world”?

The answer begins with a key Scripture, John 8:36 “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed”. In a later passage, Jesus relates the freedom he is talking about to truth. We tend to think in black and white; either we are captive or have freedom. But Jesus was not talking about mobility. Paul was free although in prison. John was free although in exile.

A prisoner who repents, accepts God’s forgiveness, prays, and accepts the Holy Spirit’s guidance in reading the Word daily can be an authentic growing believer and be “free” on the inside. I have met many such inmates over my years in ministry.

There are many “church people” who are captive. We can “play” church, yet be a prisoner to lies and deception. Of course, many “good” people might be quick to respond: “I’m not a heroin addict. I have not committed adultery. I never robbed a bank. I never murdered anyone.” These attitudes can easily lead to thinking they are better than a convicted criminal. And here is where many fail to see God’s perspective. This type of thinking can lead to self-righteousness.

Some church people may not be heroin users but abuse prescription drugs. Some may not commit adultery but are addicted to pornography. Some may not rob banks but cheat customers, cheat on their taxes, and pad expense accounts. Some may not murder but refuse to forgive brothers and sisters and hate their neighbor. It is too easy to think we are “good” if we go to church and have never been arrested or convicted of a crime.

God has a higher standard. He sees our secrets. He is witness to our hidden sins. He knows our true character. God is not impressed with our titles, resume, letters of recommendation, or church activity. He knows our heart. A condemned criminal hanging on a cross beside our Lord was promised paradise. He “came to his senses” like so many prisoners in juvenile facilities, jails, and prisons.

The next time you are tempted to think of yourself as a “good person” because you compare yourself to a person with a public record of crime, look at God’s standards in his Word.

Inventory your attitudes; Are you prone to bouts of anger? Do you speak harshly to your spouse? Are you proud or self-righteous? Look at your behaviors: Do you abuse alcohol? Do you view pornography? Do you cheat on your taxes?

Going to church in the “free world” does not make you a better person than an inmate who attends prison chapel. There are church people who are more captive than some prisoners.

All of us can receive God’s grace and mercy. All of us are sinners in need of redemption. There are no “good” people, just people who truly follow the Lord or are faking it. And that is equally true for prisoners and church people.


2011© Youth Direct Ministries. All rights reserved.