Last night, once again, I was in a prison. I went with a group from First Colony to the Carol Vance Unit. This unit is an all-Christian unit that came into existence because of George Bush's faith based initiative while he was governor. What an experience it was!
I met Robert. Robert was a man like any other who just happened to be serving a 30 year sentence for some kind of crime. He was a college grad and a well-spoken man who knew Christ personally as his Savior. It was amazing to hear about the change that had been made in his life. He said that his time at Carol Vance had been given him a chance to study God's word daily around men who had become his brothers. This church he had been apart of in the prison had been a place where many had come to God and flourished. He said there were several who faked their faith to get out early, but most of the men truly were seeking God. No longer do I see prisoners as people who cannot be touched. When I think of a criminal, I think of Robert E. Lee. (Yes that was his name.)
And I met Gerald who had been shot in his leg and God had miraculously healed him. God is at work even in the prisons, but his hands and feet in the world, the church, are lagging behind. Why are there so few prison ministries? Why are we so scared of this population? I think it's because we don't have faces to put with this label. I grew up, as many did in Churches of Christ, unsure about Baptists until I married one and put a face with someone different from me. I grew up unsure of criminals until this summer as I have put faces with this label. We all fear the unknown until we are able to put a face with whatever label our society leaves us with. Our job as Christians is to get to know every unknown and break down the labels our society uses to separate us.
Get to know a prisoner. Get to know people different from you because you might just find out there is more in common than you once believed. There are differences between everyone but if we can agree on the core of our faith, Jesus Christ, then we can overcome many of the labels society brands us with. Instead of man, woman, black, white, poor, wealthy, prisoner, free man, republican, democrat, old, young, we can all be called Christians. Isn't that a vision for the church?