We were being watched.
At a worship service behind bars, I was sitting among some men that I remembered from a previous visit. I was jarred out of the music by the realization that officers armed with rifles were standing watch in “guard shacks” that extended from the walls of the auditorium.
Earlier that morning, as I was coming through security, I learned that two officers had been involved in an accident. One had been killed, and the other was in critical condition. For this reason the atmosphere of this prison, never a joyful place, was particularly sorrowful and oppressive. The officers were shaken and grieved.
As I got up to the podium to speak, the Spirit moved me to pray for the officers. I asked the prisoners to pray with me. We extended our hands toward the armed men in the guard shacks, as representatives of all the officers at the prison. We prayed for hope for the deceased officer’s family and healing for the man in the hospital. It was one of the most powerful, unifying experiences I have had in prison. The wall between officers and prisoners came down for a sweet, brief period. It was a little foretaste of heaven.
Paul writes that there is “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NIV). I might add that in Jesus, there is no distinction between those wearing jumpsuits, those wearing the uniforms of officers, and those in the clothing of volunteers. We are all in need of God’s grace and all called to share it with one another.
To learn how you can be part of building this movement of Christians united to restore all those affected by crime and incarceration, visit www.prisonfellowship.org today.