I recently visited our local Young Offender’s Institute. This centre houses about 300 teenage boys who are currently serving sentences for a variety of crimes. Tonight they are looking at sparse cell walls and their families are miles away. They are neither free physically as a direct result of being sentenced for crimes they committed, nor spiritually free without Jesus.On my visit I was able to walk the corridors with a prison Chaplain. I visited two cellblocks and spoke with a small number of the lads. I also had the privilege of sharing my story with a small group in a short chapel service. As I listened to their stories it became apparent that they were prisoners not only of the state, but also prisoners to unforgiveness: Two lads shared how difficult is was to forgive themselves for the crimes they had committed. They were double-punishing: punished by the state, and punishing themselves. Unforgiveness is a very real mental, spiritual prison which binds us and keeps in incarcerated ‘on the inside’. This is not how God wants us to live.Jesus taught his followers to pray forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. Forgiveness is for all of us. Jesus gives us the chance to be changed from the inside to the out because he loves us. This is the hope these lads were holding to. While in prison they have heard about Jesus and he is setting them free – it’s a step-by-step process and it takes time. We are just the same as them: we are longing to be able to forgive ourselves and others so that we can live life to the full as God always intended. Perhaps this begins by following What Jesus said: when we forgive others and experience the forgiveness God gives us we are more able to forgive ourselves and walk in the freedom of Jesus.
May we walk with Jesus and talk with God about all those parts of live where we are struggling with ourselves. May we trust Jesus to lead us into forgiveness. May we rely on the Holy spirit to transform us from the Inside to the Out.