UNDERSTANDING NEW CHRISTIANS IN PRISON
Guilt - Guilt is one of the major reasons that can prevent a Christian who is locked up from growing spiritually. Guilt has a way of hiding itself deep within a believer’s life. As a new Christian, he knows that he has been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ. Knowing that fact and feeling that he is forgiven are two different things. Say that you did another person wrong and years later you wanted to make things right between you and him. So, you go to that person and ask him to forgive you and he does. A few days later, you run across that same person again and the first thing that enters your mind is the wrong you did to him. You are still walking around in the guilt of the offense because you have not accepted the forgiveness he gave you and forgiven yourself.
If your friend or relative in jail or prison comes to you and asks you to forgive him, try to be sure that he has truly accepted your forgiveness. Shortly after forgiveness is offered, try to evaluate if your friend or relative has moved on and truly forgiven himself. A new Christian doing time has so much time to think. With that time, he truly can see the wrong that he has done to others. Many times it is so terrible that he doesn’t even want to think about it. Jesus tells us to bring these offenses to Him and ask for forgiveness. It is especially hard for the new believer in prison, but he must learn to accept this forgiveness and move on with his life in Christ or he will not grow. Friends and family can help him to forgive himself through their consistent support and closeness.
Psalms 103:12 says, “As far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” This verse is easy to understand, but hard to accept and believe for ourselves. It is foreign to the new believer because the world does not know unconditional forgiveness. When a new Christian sees all that Jesus did for his sins and then remembers all the wrongs that he, as an unbeliever, did to others, the guilt sets in hard.
While in prison one thinks an awful lot and the wrongs that one did to others can come to mind from 10 or 15 years ago. Here is an example of one that most would not even consider, but it ate me up for days. When I was 16 years old, I stayed with my grandparents over the summer break. My Grandpa asked me if I wanted to go with him to see a naval carrier that was in port. I said I wanted to, but I wanted to take my girlfriend too. He said that I shouldn’t take her because it was something that Grandpa wanted to do with just me. So I said no, and went over to my girlfriend’s house instead.
Years later, I thought about how selfish I was to my Grandpa. I wanted to tell him that I was sorry about the whole thing, but couldn’t because he had died years earlier. So I took this before God and asked Him to forgive me for my selfishness and asked Him to help me not to walk in such selfish ways like that again.
Friends and family can help with this tremendously. Guilt like this will come out in letters, phone calls and visits. Even, if they don’t appear as guilt, these feelings need to be recognized as guilt feelings. Once you have seen this in your friend or loved one, please take time and share the gospel with them about God’s forgiveness and part of accepting that forgiveness is for us to forgive ourselves as well.
In the example with my Grandpa, I realized that there was no reason to continue to feel guilty over this, but to accept the fact that God forgave me and move on. There have since been other times in my life that I could have acted in a selfish way towards another, but the memory of how badly I felt when I hurt my Grandpa stopped me from making that mistake again. Had I stayed in my guilt and not dealt with it, then I might have
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