By God’s grace, I have never served a sentence, but the men and women I am blessed to encounter in prison always teach me about following Jesus.
Recently, I was privileged to spend an entire day in prison with hundreds of prisoners and their families. I talked with those who were incarcerated, their children, and the moms, grandmas, and other caregivers of these kids. I prayed with families and couples, and we engaged in conversation.
I have often experienced God teaching me through others. A theme or a consistent truth emerges from a series of dialogues and encounters. This day was another one of those times.
As I asked the men what God had been teaching them, they all shared that they had learned how to be in community with others. When I asked them what they are the most concerned about when they think of returning home, they told me they worry about not having friends to help them follow Jesus. I asked the teens with incarcerated dads if they thought their dad was different now than when he entered prison. They told me he’s better at expressing himself and showing love to them. Wives, girlfriends, and moms told me that their “guy” now treats them with respect and honor.
As I sensed this theme, I was reminded of Galatians 5:14. “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” In this chapter, the Apostle Paul contrasts living in the Spirit with living in the flesh. The men and families I talked to that day had learned the importance of Spirit-filled community because they had once lost it. They showed me how central this fellowship is to a life of hope. They had longed for it, and now they have learned how to live it out!