Christ took the punishment for our sins

Published 7:30 am Sunday, April 10, 2022

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.

It’s now “the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families,” according to the ministry’s website. “Prison Fellowship believes that a restorative approach to prisoners, former prisoners, and all those affected by crime and incarceration can make communities safer and healthier. Our ministry is founded on the conviction that all people are created in God’s image and that no life is beyond God’s reach. As Christians, we believe that Jesus …offers hope, healing, and a new purpose for each life. He can make even the most broken people and situations whole again.”

Colson spent every Easter Sunday following his release holding a chapel service in a prison around the world. I met Chuck Colson several years ago while participating in the Centurion Program that teaches the Christian worldview (now called the Colson Fellows Program). 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.

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 operate 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.