Imagine you are in prison. You have done nothing ‘wrong’ apart from preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.
You feel tense and fearful, and ask for God’s grace and strength. You want to stand strongly for the Saviour. You believe that he is the only answer to everyone’s sin and guilt. Only Christ crucified and risen can save sinners separated from God.
What an opportunity to proclaim real liberty to those in physical captivity and spiritual bondage!
You decide to witness to as many fellow prisoners as you can. Your cellmate, also in chains for preaching Christ, is one with you in this resolve.
But there is no Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) to protect your rights as a prisoner!
You are beaten with many stripes and put in stocks in the bowels of the prison. Not only is there no PACE, but no peace either.
Yet you amaze everyone (and perhaps yourself) by singing hymns and praying together. And it’s midnight! God is upholding you, despite your pain and degradation.
Remember Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer? Well, you know the rest of the story in Acts 16.
To be brief, the jailer comes to faith in Christ after an amazing intervention by God. More than that, each member of his family put their trust in Jesus and are baptised. Interestingly, we are not told whether any of Paul and Silas’s fellow prisoners became Christians too.
The opportunity to present the gospel to UK prisoners means that their ‘jailers’ (today called prison officers) can hear the gospel as well.
The reactions of officers on duty to that message vary. Their stressful, often undervalued job can take its toll – some seem hardened and sceptical.
They know their prisoners are not there for nothing. They cannot relax – they are on duty.
Yet often, after listening carefully to the message of Christ presented to the prisoners, prison officers have engaged in open conversation about the gospel.
Many have received gospel booklets. Some have asked me for a copy of The Resurrection: the unopened gift, after the resurrection of Christ has been proclaimed.
But not all are sympathetic. One very large, macho officer recently told me before I preached: ‘You are wasting your time … talking to a brick wall’. His mind was like concrete – mixed up and permanently set.
I told him that if one sinner came to Christ it was all worthwhile. He responded that it was ‘all a load of fairy tales’.
He volunteered that he had no respect for me, nor any other Christian, and would keep his sins. I told him that this was exactly what worried me. He might indeed keep his sins, but he would face eternal judgement for them.
I undertook to pray that God would soften his hard heart and bring him to repentance and faith in Christ.
This somewhat unusual opportunity spurred me on to share God’s wonderful gospel with the 130 eagerly listening – and far more open-minded – prison inmates.
Please pray for this man, and for everyone hearing God’s message in prison – prisoners, prison officers, chaplaincy teams and visitors.
All who commit sin are slaves to sin, but Jesus can set sinners free. Remember the Philippian jailer!