Before my son’s conviction, like many people, I thought of prison as being a dangerous place filled with angry men who fight with one another daily. But now that I’ve that experienced the penal system through my son’s incarceration, my perception has changed.
There are dangers in prison and there are angry people who live there. However, I’ve learned through my son and by meeting other families who have incarcerated loved ones, that most people in prison are a lot like each one of us.
All throughout biblical history, the Lord demonstrated to us that He does not withhold a future for people who have a darkened past when they surrender their lives to Him, whether that was their own doing or brought on them by others.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).
Let’s briefly look at two biblical heroes to see how God gave them better futures in spite of their past and let’s imagine their lives written as modern-day headlines and stories…
Convicted sex offender promoted to second-in-command
Joseph, a convicted sex offender, was released from prison and promoted to second-in-command after accurately interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. The Pharaoh’s cupbearer, a former inmate with Joseph, remembered that Joseph had the God-given ability to interpret dreams.
Summoned to appear before Pharaoh, the Lord gave Joseph the meaning of the dreams and instructions on how to spare the land from famine. Therefore, Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be second-in-command of Egypt.
Joseph arrived in Egypt after his brothers kidnapped and sold him to slave traders. While serving as a slave to Potiphar, Joseph became a trusted manager. Joseph allegedly took advantage of his liberties and was accused by Mrs. Potiphar of inappropriate behavior.
Joseph testified that Mrs. Potiphar seduced him and when he fled she kept his cloak. She testified that “When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me” (Genesis 39:15 NLT). The courts sided with Potiphar and sentenced Joseph to prison, though more testimony indicated this was a wrongful conviction.
Joseph was known for saving Egypt and the surrounding lands from seven years of famine, including the brothers who betrayed him. Before his death, Joseph said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT).
Murderer turned fugitive becomes government and religious leader
Spared from death as an infant, Pharaoh sought the death penalty for adopted grandson, Moses, for his role in the murder of an Egyptian task master. It was reported that “after looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand” (Exodus 2:12 NLT).
Fearing for his own life, Moses fled to the wilderness where he lived for 40 years as a fugitive. After the reigning Pharaoh died, the Lord summoned Moses to return to the land where he was born to lead the Israelites out of slavery.
After a miraculous parting of the Red Sea and safely crossing into the wilderness away from the pursuing Egyptians, God instructed Moses on how to establish the Israelite government and establish a house of worship for the Hebrew people.
Moses became known for writing the first five books of the Old Testament and was called a friend of God as “the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11 NLT).
When anyone (including inmates and their families) surrenders their heart to Jesus and repents of their sins, they receive forgiveness of their sins. Then the process of becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus begins.
With that surrender, we all have the promise of a new life and the hope of a better future in Him on this side of eternity, just as demonstrated in the lives of Joseph and Moses.
Therefore, what if we, the people in our society, begin to look at the lives of those who are incarcerated as in training and in preparation for a better future? What if we begin to partner with the Lord to help inmates and their families realize they have a hope for a better future?