Just recently as I reported to work, I performed the usual duty of reading the internal letters from the inmate population. An inmate wrote to me and asked that a chaplain visit his housing unit because he had needed some spiritual counseling. He wrote that he had “burned too many bridges” and had no one to turn to. It is a regular occurrence to receive letters from inmates asking to see the chaplain. The requests are usually for permission to make a phone call free of charge. Unlike the other letters, this inmate wanted direction.
That same day I went to the inmate’s housing unit and sat down to speak with him. I listened to his concerns. He shared with me how he keeps returning to jail and don’t know why he continues to commit crimes. As we proceeded further into the conversation I noticed that he had his Bible with him. I then asked him what he knew about Christ. The inmate told me that he accepted Christ but keeps turning away from Him. I had concluded it was now time for me to clarify the Gospel message with him.
I began by emphasizing that we all have sinned and currently fall short of the requirements to be saved. I shared with the inmate that the Bible says that “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Since he had already recognized his shortfall, I explained to the inmate that he was like most people who wanted Jesus to be his Savior but not His Lord. This one man had to come to terms with reality regarding his repeat incarceration. I explained that Romans 6:23 stated that the payment for sin is death. Sin always involves payment of some kind, but only God can rebuild the bridges that we burned down. But in order for those bridges to be rebuilt, we have to actually follow the Savior by allowing Him to be Lord over our lives.
The inmate looked at me very surprisingly because I had told him that he wanted Jesus to be his Savior but not His Lord. I explained to the inmate that he doesn’t have to go around “burning bridges” in an effort to achieve false goals. I then asked him was he ready to
Before we prayed, I wanted to make sure that he really understood the Gospel message. I went on to say by receiving Christ, we can think of the illustration in the courtroom. I told the inmate to picture himself in front of a judge to be sentenced to death. When the judge pronounced the sentence, Jesus walked in to be carried away by the deputies on our behalf. I quoted John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The inmate started to cry a little. I had also shared with him how I was incarcerated and Christ redeemed me from the penalty of my sin. I then became a bridge builder along with Him.
Finally, I asked the inmate if he would be willing to make an unashamed prayer by repeating after me. He agreed. We prayed and the inmate confessed his sins and asked Christ into his life to be his Lord and Savior. He began to sob right there in his dormitory. I embraced him and assured him that he was now a member of Christ’s church.