Thursday, February 12, 2015

The state may not like him, but Jesus does!

The Michigan Attorney General would be appalled!

Even many of my fellow Christians would shake their heads if they knew my intentions.

I’m going to fight for the release of Old Bert.

My attention was first drawn to his name by his warden, who informed me in no uncertain terms that she felt he should be out of prison.  He had actually died in her prison once, and they brought him back to life.  He’s in terrible health, and his old body is in terrible shape.  He hobbles along with two canes when he can walk, and he’s constantly in pain, whether standing or sitting.

He wept bitterly a couple times when I met with him in the prison.  We had a private room, thanks to the warden...a place where Old Bert could bare his soul.  His crime was so terrible, so heinous, that he lost all respect from family and friends…everyone who knew him disowned him.  And, he admitted, for good reason.  That was 47 years ago.

47 years behind bars, and Old Bert became a new man.  Like Saul of Tarsus, known for his involvement in the brutal killing of Christians, he met a man named Jesus along the way.

Old Bert spent hours and days and weeks in the law library, and has now became a very effective jailhouse lawyer.  Now he uses his skills daily to help others who can’t afford attorneys.  He still doesn’t get to church much…still feels pretty uncomfortable among those he considers probably more righteous.

I always suspect he gets a real thrill when he reads the account of Jesus’ crucifixion in Luke 23, where our Lord looks on a man convicted of such a terrible crime that he was also nailed to a cross.  In a love so great it could only be divine in nature, Jesus granted forgiveness and said, “…today you will be with me in paradise.”

I already know what I’m going to hear when I sit next to Old Bert this year in his Parole Board session.  They’re going to tear him into little pieces for the crime he committed.  If and when he gets to a Public Hearing, the Assistant Attorney General is going to recommend no parole.  In some minds, this broken old man with a healed new spirit still poses a threat to society.  In all fairness to the victims of the crime, he should remain behind bars.  That will be the general consensus.

I was in prison this week with my little group of musicians, playing and singing the old gospel songs for inmates.  After the service, Old Bert took painful steps with both canes so that he could get to me.  But he couldn’t speak.  He face was wet with tears. 

I knew what he was thinking:  Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

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