“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” — 2 Peter 2:09
As my good friend and fellow teacher at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility Chris McAlpin and I prepared to start our weekly lesson, the inmates slowly walked in. All were professed Christians, soon to be released. Chris and I were part of a pilot program to help the prisoners inside and then outside the walls. Missing on that day was the normal banter.
We suddenly saw why as Grady shuffled in with his head bowed. Chris and I tried not to react, but Grady’s bruised and battered face was hard to look away from or forget.
We started to teach and the lesson soon turned to repentance. Grady suddenly raised his hand. “You can see I was in a fight. This guy, he knows I’m a Christian. He always pokes at me. Knowing it bothers me.” Grady was short and wiry. His faith, however, always stood tall. He wasn’t shy about sharing it, and the men often joked about Grady’s compulsion to share his faith with all who would listen.
There wasn’t a sound in the sterile teaching room as Grady continued. “Well, this time I reacted. It’s what he wanted….” Grady’s voice slowly trailed off. Grady started to weep as he looked up at Chris and me. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I ruined my witness for Christ.” The tears welled up in many of us. This man, beaten more severely than anyone I’d seen before, was blaming himself. He was crying out to Christ to forgive him for an imperfect witness.
That was a decade ago. Yet I can’t shake the power of Grady’s testimony. Testimony in the wake of a beating that brings to mind a bit of the pre-crucifixion treatment of our Lord. It brings to mind what’s so often missing in my life. Maybe in yours, too.
Oh, of course I ask forgiveness when my temper flares, my selfishness bites or my arrogance hurts. But even that request is so often simply because I was caught or embarrassed. How often do I ask forgiveness and look for repentance because what I did impacted my witness for Christ?
As we reflect and prepare to celebrate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection from death for our sinful souls, what a better time to take stock of not just the “whats” of repentance but also the “whys”.
Heavenly Father. How often we overlook Your precious gifts. How often we are too self-absorbed to count the cost of Your precious Son. May Your Holy Spirit remind us that how we live and love is to reflect Your grace in our lives.
WBS Alum and Board Member