I read a story recently which made me laugh out loud. It was hilarious but it was also quite sobering when I stopped to think about it.
The Sun Newspaper in the UK ran a story about a criminal who was at breaking point because he had been locked up with a christian who simply would not stop preaching to him.
It's a classic. The prisoner, who sounds like he does not spend alot of time in church, described his annoying cell mate as "a Bible-thumping believer". Now that's a captive audience.
And how much guts must this christian guy have to keep at it considering who his cell mate is? This is not an accountant who cheated the tax man, but a hardened, violent criminal whom the Police labelled a "predator".
This bloke gets my vote for the Luke 9:23 award, at least until something even more bold comes along. It sounds like a good way to die a martyr's death if you ask me. Perhaps that's what he had in mind.
As I considered this man preaching the word to a crim with a short fuse, a few things occured to me.
Firstly, this man's example spears me as a fellow christian. I do honestly think I would find a way to witness in gaol, but I don't think I could in any sense claim this is what I would get to. I reckon I would heed my cell mate's warnings that I could get many more years of witnessing in provided I just shut up for a while.
Secondly, I think I may have fallen into the trap of assuming all the gaol witnessing happens on the other side of the bars; Kairos or something similar. I need to be careful I don't simply assume because someone is in prison, they don't belong to God. After all, when I think about it, I can name a few people I'm pretty sure God had on the inside; Jesus, Paul, Peter, Joseph...
Thirdly, I am a bit rattled by how this man grabbed the opportunity before him. He was clearly happy to drop God-stuff into everyday conversation, he showed perseverance and put his trust in the Lord, in the face of a very clear & present danger.
I think I have been to so many evangelism seminars, I have automatically begun to think it can only occur along clearly defined lines with adequate preparation.
Here's where we add that preparation and training are wonderful & we should all do more, but none of this should undermine our attitude of carpe diem, seizing the moment, always being ready.
Surely that is at least partly what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Colossian Church,
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)
And again to the Ephesian Church,
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
I don't even know that prisoner's name. We may not find out either because apparently prison authorities thought it best to move him on. I guess they figured if they left the two of them together for much longer there would be too much paperwork.
I do not know him, but I thank him. I thank him for reminding me about my priorities. These are priorities God has given us, not just for the short term, but for our entire lives.
Lives which will end with those glorious words in Revelation,
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Rev 19:7)