UNDERSTANDING NEW CHRISTIANS IN PRISON
LEARNING ABOUT LOVE
And so we know and rely on the love that God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16 NKJV)
To say we are growing in Christ is like saying we are growing in love because Christ is God and God is love! 1 John 4:18 continues the above idea:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and the one who fears is not made perfect in love.
When Christians in prison read this scripture, and choose to act on the Word of God by walking in the love of God, it shows a big step of faith in Christ. Since fear has to do with punishment and prison is punishment, there is much fear in prison; fears of being hurt, or rejected by others, or forgotten by outside loved ones; fear of losing one's identity and dignity, just becoming a number; fears and worries about family members and not being able to help them from prison. There are many fears in prison, but we have the love of Christ and 'perfect love cast out fear.' It is very comforting for a Christian inmate to know that he can have peace and hope despite his circumstances. The apostle Paul is a good example. While in prison and wondering if he would be killed, he chose to trust in God's perfect love no matter what.
Of course this is more easily said then done, especially for a new Christian. Since perfect love casts out fear and only God is perfect love then one must trust in God completely to let go of his own fears and worries. Everyone has experienced some type of love and trusting someone at sometime in their lives. For most in prison, though, this love and trust if any at all were far from perfect. Therefore, in order to grow in the love of God, it is important to pray continually that God would teach us to walk and trust in His perfect love. Studying the Bible is the best way to attain this ability to trust in God's love.
For most who are Christians outside of prison, although they may have some difficulties, overall, it is less difficult to learn to walk in God's love, show God's love and trust in Him. For the new Christian inmate, it is very difficult to take what the scripture says and apply it. Fear and intimidation is everywhere, every day. Remember good is not accepted in prison. Anger and hatred abound. This is a very unstable environment to learn to trust in God's perfect love to cast out all worries and fears. Showing God's love or talking about trusting in God in prison can cause great opposition and rejection. To hug another brother in Christ can open up much criticism or vile aggression via rumors of being a sissy or soft or worse. We all know what happens to prisoners who are considered a sissy or soft. Inmates do not want to deal with such names.
Since passiveness or being soft is looked down on in prison, many inmates who are not violent or passive by nature turn to religious activities to masquerade their softness. That way they can say that it is their belief to turn the other cheek when in fact they would have acted the same without any religion in their life. So it goes without saying that these kind of religious inmates are not true believers and don't really care about having a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. However, some do eventually become true believers after attending services, and turn to true repentance and become a strong Christian the rest of their lives. Only time will tell.
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