As one who has worked in jail/prison ministry for many years, including interviewing such notorious criminals as Charles "Tex" Watson of the Manson Family and serving as editor for the personal memoirs of David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz (both now dedicated Christians), I am concerned at the controversy over the fate of those who become believers after being convicted of a serious crime.
I have heard the argument that if a person has been forgiven by the ultimate Judge, he should no longer have to face the full extent of his punishment and that somehow leniency is in order because the person has truly repented and been born again and is no longer a threat to society. I have also heard the argument that "jailhouse conversions" aren't worth the so-called paper they're written on and should therefore have no bearing on a prisoner's sentence.
There is merit in both arguments. I, for one, believe jailhouse conversions--if they are truly conversions and not dramatic attempts to gain freedom from incarceration--are as legitimate as conversions that take place anywhere else. I also believe that the One Judge over the universe, before whom we will all one day stand, has precedence over human law. Whether or not we believe someone is "worthy" of forgiveness is irrelevant. If God declares it so, then it is so.
But does being converted and spared eternal punishment after we die automatically preclude our need to pay the price for our crimes on earth? Does being forgiven by God mean our sins are forgotten by the world? Not at all. Though the change that comes from being born into God's family may impact the way others perceive and relate to us in this world, as well as the way we spend whatever time we have left on this planet, it does not necessarily change the conditions of our earthly sojourn, whether we are inmates convicted of crimes against society or simply individuals living in various life situations. As many inmates I have spoken to over the years and who have become believers while incarcerated have told me, "I have the joy of knowing I will go to be with the Lord when I leave this place; until then, I will serve wherever God has me--in prison or otherwise." Those prisoners who have experienced true conversions also know that prison walls and jail cells cannot prevent them from being free once the Son of God has made them "free indeed." They also know that many outside the confines of correctional institutions are in prisons of their own making, refusing to repent and be set free.
That said, may I suggest that you consider reading my latest novel, My Son, John, from Sheaf House, which deals with this very subject. This poignant, gripping story of heartbreak, loss, and unconditional love will challenge you to walk in a level of freedom you may never have considered before.
You can find out more about the book, watch the accompanying video trailer, and order a copy directly from my website, www.kathimacias.com.
Blessings, beloved, as you walk in the freedom that has been purchased at such a costly price!