“Why do you do this? Are you paid to come here?” an inmate finally summoned the courage to ask me during a few quiet moments on the Kairos Prison Ministry weekend. It wasn’t the first time an outside volunteer had been queried this way, and it certainly hasn’t been the last, for as incarceration serves its social purposes of justice and protection, the loneliness of isolation and the sense of worthlessness may well be the most difficult aspects of doing time. “We aren’t paid anything,” I replied, “We are here because we have experienced the love and mercy of Christ in our own lives, and we want to share it with you.”
Do we need to hear the percussion of slamming steel doors behind us or to behold the glare of gleaming razor wire above us to understand the reality of separation? No, “alone” may be more acute for the condemned, but we’re all acquainted with its pain. We know relational severance at a human level—whether we suffer it through the sting of death or the shock of rejection, or we be the ones who drive the splintering wedge of division—and we also experience it from in the spiritual sense, because deep inside we know sin separates us from a holy God who will not tolerate evil as we do.
Yet in pure love for us, God sent Jesus to close the gap between us. No one can bring charges against us anymore, for it is God himself who declares our right standing before Him in Christ. No evil power can condemn us, for Jesus intercedes for us before the Father. No society or any of its members can marginalize us as losers, for we are “more than conquerors” through Him who gave His life so we may gain ours. And nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I think my newfound friend dared to believe me, for, no longer isolated from care, he began to open up about his dreams, his aspirations after release, and his possibilities in a new life of freedom. Hope was stirring.
Father, thank you for uniting me with you through Jesus, who died for my sins and who raises me to new and forever life in Himself. Send your Spirit to live in me, that I would flourish in the truth of your love; then send me to others with the liberating message of unity with you through Christ. In His name, I pray. Amen.
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:33-39)
Christ in me is salvation.