Christ took the punishment for our sins

Published 2:13 am Saturday, April 20, 2019

Chuck Colson, former Counsel to President Richard Nixon who served time at Maxwell Federal Prison in Montgomery as a result of Watergate, founded a ministry called Prison Fellowship after his release in 1976.

Prison Fellowship is now “the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families,” according to ministry’s media link, and it’s “based on the premise that at the heart of every criminal act is a destructive moral decision.”  Prison Fellowship has programs in some 1400 correctional facilities, reaching some 200,000 prisoners in the U.S.  They have partnerships with 8,000 churches in the United States and approximately 7,400 volunteers participate throughout the United States.

Colson spent every Easter Sunday after his release holding a chapel service in a prison.  I met Chuck Colson several years ago while participating in a distance-learning program teaching the Christian worldview.  The last time I saw him, he was in Montgomery to speak with a group of local ministers and other people before going to speak to the inmates at Maxwell Federal Prison on April 23, 2011.  Colson died a year later.

Prison Fellowship programs reach prisoners, ex-prisoners, and families of prisoners in all 50 states and in more than 125 countries worldwide.  Colson tells about visiting Humaita Prison in Brazil in 1993.  The government there had permitted Prison Fellowship to take operation of Humaita, formerly known for deplorable conditions.

“When I visited Humaita, I found the inmates smiling – particularly the murderer who held the keys, opened the gates, and let me in.  Wherever I walked I saw men at peace. I saw clean living areas, people working industriously. The walls were decorated with biblical sayings from Psalms and Proverbs.  Humaita has an astonishing record.  Its inmates’ rate for recidivism (repeated crimes on release) is 4 percent, compared to 75 percent in the rest of Brazil and the United States.  How is all this possible?

“I saw the answer when my guide escorted me to the notorious punishment cell once used for torture.  Today, he told me, that cell houses only a single inmate.  As we reached the end of a long concrete corridor and he put the key into the lock, he paused and asked, ‘Are you sure you want to go in?’

“’Of course,’ I replied impatiently. ‘I’ve been in isolation cells all over the world.’  Slowly he swung open the massive door, and I saw the prisoner in that punishment cell: a crucifix, beautifully carved by the Humaita inmates – the prisoner Jesus, hanging on the cross. ‘He’s doing time for all the rest of us’ my guide said softly.”

Simone Weil states, “Christ did not die as a martyr.  He died – infinitely more humble – a common criminal.”  Romans 5:8 reads, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  G. Campbell Morgan once said, “Nobody who has truly seen the cross of Christ can ever again speak of hopeless cases.”

Christ took the punishment for our sins, so that, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, you can be forgiven.

Jan White is an national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at