Justice, or grace?

“Whenever I would bring a bible home, my father would burn it…”

blue sky nine just came off the road doing from a bunch of concerts in correctional institutions in Florida. There are a number of things that make those concerts difficult. One is that, to the correctional officers, our band and equipment represents an entire travelling circus of items that could be potentially made into improvised weapons. Another is that the physical security of the women in our team requires a level of diligence that is, in a word, creepifying. It can be a dangerous place.

To me, though, the hardest thing is learning about the events that led up to whatever they did to become incarcerated. We get to talk to the guys a lot before and after the shows, and the quote above was from an inmate who was telling us how much he appreciated the fact that we came into the prison to be with them. As a kid, when he brought a bible home, his father would burn it. So the fact that we came into a prison to bring him the truth represented a HUGE way for God to reach out to him.

Of course, there are much worse stories than that. The pain of incarceration is a specific sort of tragedy, but many times, it is just the most recent in a string of tragedies. While it may be easy to point out that inmates are ‘getting what they deserve’ in the legal sense, what is true is that many of them have had lives that are completely devoid of grace.

The spiritual reality is that we are all guilty. Our sin has offended a Holy God, and we all deserve death. But because of God’s grace (made available through Christ), we don’t have to get it.

So there’s ‘justice’, which is where we get what we deserve, and there’s grace, which is where we get something that we don’t deserve. I’m glad to be bringing these guys grace.

On this tour, we saw about 24 guys indicate that they had chosen to accept Christ and begin a relationship with God, and about 100 more that indicated that they wanted to talk more with the Chaplains about spiritual things.

Here’s a sampling of the comments we received:

• “I think your music is just right because it entertains and moves people. It’s not too preachy and that lets people listen longer and not be standoffish.”
• “You guys were great, you got me out of prison just for a little while- made me think about fixing my life and changing.”
• “I really liked the clear and simple message about relationship with Jesus.”
• “I feel like such a failure and that no one cares about me- it’s like I’ve been forgotten or never mattered in the first place. It feels like I’m invisible.”
• “Your show showed me there is more than what meets the eye when it comes to spirituality.”
• “I thought you were wonderful performers but your relationship with God is what really impressed me. How you all love the Lord is awesome.”
• “God bless you all for letting us know you haven’t forgotten about us.”
• “Something happened to me today. I can’t explain. God is telling me something. I will start coming (to chapel) more often.”
• “Seeing and hearing you today reminded me that even though I may not see the BIG picture and still have hurt inside- God is there for me and has plans for my life… I will be giving more of my time to developing a more personal relationship with God and learning his word.”

It’s gut-wrenching to hear some of those comments and stories, but we’re immensly grateful to be able to bring light into a very dark place.