A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take the message of Christ to a prison in Pensacola, Florida. I have spoken in numerous prisons but only at death row once before. When I walked in, the loudness and sense of oppression struck me. The sound of the doors closing behind as I entered sounded so permanent. It made me think, “This is a tiny taste of what Hell must be like, to be secluded and be there forever.”
Once we got to the prison we were led to a common area where I began to preach to several inmates, but just as I was about to tell them about Jesus, the prison went on lock down. I am not sure if you know about prison lock down, but when that happens everything is completely shut down and prisoners are returned to their cells. It doesn’t matter what is going on.
At the sound of the lockdown instructions, I looked at the guard and asked for a few more seconds. He turned and looked at me like I was crazy. I just didn’t want these men to leave without knowing how much Jesus loved them. I stood on a chair and began to shout at the top of my lungs, “Jesus Loves You! He will forgive you. Turn away from your unbelief and sins and reach him through faith!” As I did many began to join in by lifting their hands and cheering. For me, you never know what impact can be made just at the mention at the name of Jesus and I didn’t want to miss that opportunity.
After this we went to a separate facility, about five miles away, where we were led to meet with 12 men who were on death row. We met with the group collectively and then spoke to each man one-on-one in a small room with no guard. It was amazing to hear some of the stories. Some men were interested in the message I shared and others had decided just to come to get out of their cells for a little while.
One guy that really moved me told me was 36 years old and had been in prison for 12 years; he was just waiting for death. His family, who lives three hours away, had nothing to do with him and no one ever came to visit him. We did not discuss what he had done to get here but what he told me was powerful. He said, “Some may see this as Death Row, but I see it as Life Row. It took me getting to death row to find Christ, which in the end gives me life.” He went on to say that if he had not hit rock bottom, he didn’t know if he ever would have found Christ or found life. It is amazing what God does to get a hold of us and call us His own!
My visit to the prison really made me think. We are no different than these prisoners on death row. To God, all sin is equal. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness any more than murders, liars, thieves and death row prisoners. God died for them just the same way He died for us. We deserve to be on a “spiritual death row” but in God’s love and kindness He showed us mercy and provided a way out.
It is easy to look at others and judge and to decide what punishment they have is fair but what about you? Are you glad God didn’t think you should die for your sin? Are you glad in His mercy He sent His son to take your place?
Love you guys-