Clear About Judgment?
Marie was a self-confessed “tweaker” (a methamphetamine addict) that I met in jail. “I guess I’m a mix between a sinner and a saint,” she explained as she told me about her biker father and devout Catholic mother. In jest she added, “Maybe that explains some of my troubles and confusion.” What wasn’t humorous however, was when she began telling me about all the death surrounding her life. Over the last year or so, over thirty friends and family members had died — most due to drug overdose. As she shared her background with me, her concern over becoming another overdose statistic became apparent.
Not surprisingly, Marie was particularly interested in talking about what happens after a person dies. When she told me about a few personal experiences in which she thought she had encountered ghosts or angels, it became clear to me that Marie was searching for answers about life and death. Her biggest question was revealed at the end of our visit when I asked if there was anything she’d like to pray about. “Can we pray that God would reveal himself and his truths to me?” she asked. And before I could answer, she blurted out, “What about judgment? I’ve always wondered about that.”
“Well, that’s where Jesus comes in,” I began. “He was judged….”
“Oh yeah,” Marie interrupted, “Jesus was definitely judged by people.”
“No, you misunderstand,” I continued. “Jesus was judged for us. By living a perfect life and dying on the cross, Jesus took the guilty sentence that we deserved and exchanged it for a sentence of not guilty. God judged Jesus for our sins so that we could be found worthy of eternal life.”
A gleam of hope seemed to flicker in Marie’s eye. “Wow,” she said, “I never had it explained to me like that before.”
“God wants us to be clear about judgment,” I continued, and then told her about other verses in Scripture where God reveals his plan to save us from our sins.
When Marie admitted that her life was filled with sins that required payment, I assured her that God knew all about her sinfulness. “That’s why God sent his Son to die on the cross for us,” I explained, “to pay for our sins so that through his innocent death, we could be with God in heaven. That’s also why we can be honest about our sins with God and not dread coming into his presence or be afraid of death.”
It was clear from our conversation that Marie realized that death could soon be knocking on her door. Perhaps God was using all these deaths as a “wake-up” call for Marie to prepare her for her own judgment. Before I left, I gave Marie a sheet of Bible verses that included the gospel promise, “So then, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and Jesus’ words of triumph from the cross, “It is finished”— paid in full (Rm. 8:1, Jn. 19:30).
I pray that God will continue to speak to Marie as she reads these words and promises of God. I pray that she may truly live a long life, honoring God and dwelling with His spirit of joy and peace in her heart. I also pray that God would move your heart to join us in shining the light of Jesus’ love behind the walls, so that souls like Marie might continue to hear about the great things that God has done to remove any fears about Judgment.
Chaplain Sarah Guenther