Some of us are put in prison, others make our prisons.
It’s no fun being in prison. I spent time working in one of Canada’s penitentiaries and there is a real sense of the walls closing in.
Hopelessness and tension are everywhere.
Wherever I went, I had an armed guard escorting me. To get to my area, I had to go through a metal detector, put my belongings through an x-ray machine, and go through five security gates. At every point, I had to wait for the go ahead before I could proceed.
Sharp shooters were stationed at four sentry towers to shoot any prisoner who dared to escape into the brutal no man’s land. It is a side of the justice that few of us see or want to see.
This is a secure prison. And inside is a man. He is a regretful man who did very bad things. His cell has cement block walls and an open toilet. He is locked in by an electronically controlled steel door with a small reinforced viewing glass in it. But he is fortunate, as he has only one cellmate.
He is surrounded by other men, who like him, are murderers, rapists, or thieves, These are dangerous men. Men who hurt and destroyed others for money, lust, or simply out of evil desire.
One night this man is in his cell and except for the snoring of his cell mate, his jail block is quiet. It is night and the jail is still. Then the man once more relives the nightmares of his crimes. Except he’s not sleeping. He’s awake. His silent tears fall and his inner voice cries out to God. He begs for forgiveness and then with trembling lips he whispers “God how can I get to heaven?”
In the next days he gets a Bible and puts his name on the Chaplain’s list for a visit. He reads about repentance and forgiveness. He even writes letters of regret to his victims. He seeks their forgiveness. Then as lays in his cot he whispers once more to a God he doesn’t yet know.
“God, am I good enough to get into heaven?”
Imagine his despair and hurt when God says “No”
“You have to be perfect to get to heaven.” God tells him. “Are you perfect?”
Then he learns about Jesus being the only way to heaven. That Jesus is the only one perfect and that through his sacrifice all who believe in him and follow his commands will also enter heaven (John 14). At the very moment, this man accepts Jesus. He goes from an enemy of God to a child of God.
His prison walls are still there but he is free!
Many of us here are also in prison. We are in prisons without walls that are stronger than any cement blocks or steel doors. We can’t even see our prison walls and some of us don’t even know we’re locked up!
But if you are dealing with self-doubt. If you are dealing with anger and unforgiveness. Maybe you are struggling with some sexual sin or can’t get over a hurt, or are addicted to some substance or person. Maybe you just feel you are not good enough or pretty enough or smart enough to be of much use.
You can be set free!
The man I wrote about is now free. It is freedom from regret, pain, and hurt. It is freedom to live life in a new way, no longer a slave to his old masters of greed and rage.
Today, many are in prisons of fear. Fear of COVID, fear of the vaccination. Fear of breaking some arbitrary rules. Others are in prisons of anger that divides families and cultures into us and them. And them is always wrong.
The governments can not set you free. No one holds the key to your cell but you. Only you can release yourself from the sentence of unforgiveness that you created. Just like the man in prison, there may still be consequences for your thoughts or actions, but you will be free to handle them. And the true key for freedom is Jesus. There is no other way.
Ask Jesus to unlock the door and step out in faith. While everyone if fear mongering, God is freedom giving. No matter your prison, let him in. Let him unlock your prison door.
Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. Currently, his wife, Stella and Andy, lead both Lighthouse ministries and Bread of Life ministries in North Central Regina, one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.