Charles* is an
inmate who is serving a long sentence in a state prison. He
attended weekly Bible study in the prison, not because he had any
interest in God, but because the Bible study gave him some social time
with outside folk who "spoke" his language -- ASL -- and it broke the
boredom of his daily routine.
Charles took up most of the time
in the Bible study showing off what he knew, asking about history
trivia, or openly challenging the volunteer chaplains with his
One April, while we were discussing the life
of Abraham, Charles interrupted to tell stories about
deception in Egypt, Noah's drunkenness, King David's adultery and
murder, Peter's denial of Jesus, and Paul's execution of
Then he said, "The reason I don't believe the Bible is because more
than half the people who wrote it were adulterers, murderers, liars,
and thieves." ...implying, "They were no better than we are!"
answered: "Charles, there is some truth in what you
But the Bible's exposure of the moral failures of those fathers of our
faith encourages me in three ways.
"First, those stories prove
to me that the Bible is telling the truth. It doesn't cover
what those people did wrong. What other holy book of any
religion exposes sins and failures of its holy men, as the Bible does?
when those people in the Bible messed up, they all suffered the
consequence. God says that sin has terrible
and the lives of Abraham, David, and the others show that to be true.
"Third, if God can forgive, accept, and use murderers like Moses,
David, and Paul, then God has hope for you and me."
Suddenly Charles became quiet. He had nothing more to say
next week was the week before Easter, so I told the story of Jesus' suffering,
death, and resurrection, illustrating with a stack of Sunday School
posters. Charles participated in a positive way, by filling
details of the story.
The following week, the moment I walked into our meeting room, Charles
had to tell me: "I found The
Passion of the Christ
video in our chapel locker. I watched the whole
Everything that you said last week was exactly right! It's
true!" Then he ran to the locker, got the DVD, set up the TV,
for the next two hours he watched it again, offering the other men his
A couple weeks later, a group of outside guests
gathered with the men for social event. Those who had not
Charles in a while noticed a change of attitude. He was kind,
courteous, patient, and helpful -- not the usual Charles that they
Now Charles has new motivation for attending
weekly Bible study. He still struggles with doubts and
discouragement. Old ways of responding to difficult
cause him to stumble. Living with the ongoing consequences of
previous bad attitude is an added burden. At times he is
uncertain that God has really forgiven him. But his eyes are
the cross and the empty tomb. His heart has been touched by
grace; it will take a while for his head to understand more fully what
~~ Pastor Ron Friedrich