“I like this kind of Bible study. What religion are you again?” The guy beside me, who always admits that he killed someone, had a big smile on his face as he was looking at the Bible verses, and then at me. We were looking at John 3:16-18, and especially v.18a “The one who believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned [judged guilty].” The guys were discussing how or if this could be true. The majority of the 25 prisoners in the cell were participating.
One of the guys had a question. “What if someone decided they would like to sin their whole life and then repent and give their life to God right at the end? Would that work?” A lot of the guys thought that was a good question. Some thought that wouldn’t work. Others remembered the thief on the cross. I kept encouraging them to go back to the Bible text, rather than just base their beliefs on good ideas or opinions.
Finally I made an observation. “It sounds like you think a sinful life is better, and you would like to have fun now and then right at the end repent, and get into heaven. It seems like you think this would be the best of both worlds. Is that right?”
There were several cautious nods, and then smiles.
“Well, what sin would you like to do, if there were no consequences on Judgement Day?
For example, what if it was ok for us all to shoot each other when we don’t agree? Do you think this would be a better life?
No, the group didn’t think that would better.
Or maybe you like to divorce several wives and have children scattered all over without you as their father? Is this your dream?
No. Nobody was thinking that would be ideal.
Or maybe we could all have anything for free. What if everyone could have guns, and everyone could demand that everyone else give them their stuff? Is this what you are talking about?
Or maybe you would like all the drugs you can have for free? Then you could easily get addicted, and then you could feed your addiction until you finally die. Is this your dream of the good life?
Or maybe you would like it if everyone could be free to be addicted to pornography. Do you think that would be better than God’s plan for your life? Do you know people who are addicted to pornography?
Or maybe you would like to hold a grudge if someone offended you, and never forgive them and never let it go?
This led to a big story by one of the guys of a time (maybe that week?) he accidently bumped someone’s shirt, which was hanging up to dry near the shower, which is over the toilet area. Huge confusion. He let it go. “The other guy had issues. I apologized and let it go.” Can you imagine? Twenty-five criminals live in an area the size of your living room, with laundry lines hanging overhead full of damp clothes. It is hot and sweaty. They are there for an indefinite amount of time as they wait for their processes to come up, usually many, many months, and often well over a year. I think this is a crash course on not being easily offended.
My question remained: What is it about the sin life that most appeals to you?
I asked a guy sitting out on the fringe. “Which sins would you choose, if you could do them and still get into heaven?”
“Yeah, you got me there. Just right at this moment I can’t think of any.”
Finally the first man, who was sitting right beside me, said, “Well, some guys just like doing bad stuff.”
Lots of thoughtful nods.
“Yes, I believe that is true . . . but is that the life you want?”
I left them with the question. I sensed everyone really enjoyed that hour and a half. I sensed God was present in the room with us.
Please keep praying for these guys.