Doing a small group Bible study at the jail has its moments. The last few weeks we have been working our way through the letter to the Colossians. We were in the 3rd chapter, and we had four guys to come, so Brian gave them a few minutes to talk among themselves and come up with four points Paul was making in the chapter as we scooted over to the other side of the room.
After a little time had passed we came back together to discuss what they discovered. One of the guys had a piece of paper with four things written down and he stated the first was “Change” and read the first 11 verses where it talks of how Christ is our life and putting off the old man and putting on the new. Each of them discussed how they had changed since being in jail and getting into the Word of God. They talked about being content and learning to trust God. It seems to me there really has been a change in these men since we first met them.
The next part of the chapter vs. 12-14 they said was forgiveness. One of the guys told us how God has revealed things to him about his past that he hasn’t liked. He said, “I have been reading the Bible and things have come to mind that I have done, and I asked God to forgive me right then and there.” The way he said this made it clear he was talking about the Spirit of God showing him rather than attempting to dig through these things from his own initiative. We talked a little about how we are to let God do the inventory because when we set out to do it we only end in a knot. If we are in charge of finding things we need forgiveness for, rather than the Spirit, it will stop us in our tracks. I was glad to hear him tell us God showed him.
Praise was the third topic found in vs. 15-17 where we are told in each verse to be thankful. The one who talked about praise told us of how he had plenty to be thankful for. He said he had a son die and felt like God had abandoned him. He was in Isolation in another jail at the time, so he cried out to God asking for a sign that he was still there. He teared up as he spoke saying, “I felt God physically touch me three times.” He went on to tell us he had been shot three times and was on life support for four days. They had to give him over twenty pints of blood to keep him alive and he was overflowing with thankfulness as he recounted these things.
The fourth and final point was about submission found in vs.18-25. Paul tells us the role of each person and their relation to one another. Husbands, wives, children and slaves, of course slave would probably be thought of in our time as employee, even so all have someone to which they are to submit. The last guy spoke about how the jail has taught him how to be submissive. He said, “On the outside I would have never been submissive to anyone.” In the jail you can’t make any moves without someone else observing you or escorting you. In fact you have to push a button in order to get a guard to speak to you or open a door. That means you have to look to others for everything in life. Thankfully this seems to have taught him to look to God for everything in his life rather than acting impulsively.
A few of the men in this group are looking at a significant amount of time behind bars. They know that the real test comes when they walk outside, but as for now I think they are in a good place spiritually. The jail is a place of great tension and stress; so I think these men see our little group meetings as an oasis. It is a place where they can come and talk openly about their faults and encourage one another on in Christ. Being a part of this kind of thing never ceases to amaze me. I know this is what God wants for me because I never would have picked it for myself. I truly am living the life of another as the Apostle Paul told us “You are not your own” and “It’s no longer I who live but Christ.”