My heart was beating a little faster and heavier than usual, as I drove into the cement parking structure of the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail--the largest jail in America. I met with the Chaplin who escorted me into the cement criminal holding tank, through security, past kidnappers, rapists and serial killers, and into his office. I felt that perhaps I had made a very big mistake.
After watching an episode of The Way of the Master (in which I shared the gospel to some Mexican gang members), the jail Chaplin asked if I would be willing to preach to some of his "boys." One of the men I had the privilege to meet was a serial killer who suffered from a genetic disorder called "gigantism" (like "Andre the Giant") which made him continue to grow to very large proportions. He was nick-named "Monster" by his fellow inmates. He was doing time for murdering four people. I had to enter a maximum security area and wait for Monster to be brought out of his solitary confinement cell. He was huge, handcuffed and hairy. As he walked toward us, he locked eyes with me and smiled, presumably remembering me from Growing Pains. The guards told him sit down on the steel bench to which they would chain him for safety.
Monster said his back was hurting him so he stepped into a steel shower cage, and the guards closed the shower door, locking the handcuffed giant behind another set of bars. Monster shook my hand (which about disappeared into the folds of his enormously meaty mitts) and told me about how he had learned that although he was a murderer waiting to be executed, like Moses, he could be forgiven by God through humble, repentant faith. He seemed genuinely contrite and professed to have surrendered to Christ as Lord and Savior. Monster said he believed that God had evangelistic work for him to do in the jail, and that if he never made it out, that would be okay. We prayed together (with my eyes slightly open) and he laughed as I slipped him a $1 Million bill (gospel tract) to give to the guards.
Shortly after speaking with Monster, I was introduced to about 800 men who had just finished watching a portion of Left Behind: The Movie as a recreational activity. They listened quietly as I shared what God had done to save me. Then I pleaded with them to consider the claims of the gospel and where they would spend eternity if they were to stand before God to give account of their lives (I have to admit, I was a little nervous with the fact that 90% of these convicts knew who I was, and may be getting out of jail someday soon.) One man stood up and began to recite a poem he had written about "making things right with your Maker while there's time." It was a very sobering atmosphere--one I won't soon forget.
As I left "MCJ" ("Men's Central Jail"), I was particularly aware of the big blue sky and the cool outdoor breeze. I felt so thankful to be free. It made me think of our freedom in Christ. In Him, we are free from the Law, free from the prison of sin, and free to live for God. We were guilty, and God sent Jesus. He took our punishment on the cross, paid our fine, broke the chains that held us captive, and opened the door to eternal life--
"[There is] therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1) "If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36)