There were 13 guys from the upper tier of maximum security tonight. We went around and each man said his first name. First names are used so rarely
We talked about lying. Why do people lie?
- to protect themselves
- to try and gain power or control
- to make themselves look better
- to avoid consequences
Apparently dogs can lie. I recently saw an expert trainer with many decades of experience working with a dog. He was training the dog not to go after food until the trainer gave permission. The trainer had put some liver snacks on the ground in front of the dog. He would correct the dog whenever it went near the treats. After a bit the dog started coughing and lowering its head. The trainer corrected the dog and it stopped coughing. I asked why he had corrected the dog for coughing. Apparently dogs will fake a cough in order to lower their head and steal a treat.
Here’s another example. A veterinarian was trimming the toenails of a basset hound. Every time he clipped a nail the dog would howl as though he was being tortured. The vet then showed the owner how the dog was faking it. While holding the clippers over a foot away from the dog he clicked them and again the dog let out a horrible noise as though harpooned even though he wasn’t even being touched. Perhaps the basset hound should have been nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
I gave some context for the scripture passage – when you become a Christian how is your life different on a daily level? Paul, writing while incarcerated, tells us this…
Ephesians 4:25-32 (NKJV)
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,”[a] for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”:[b] do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
We talked about some of the lies we have come to believe about ourselves:
- You’ll never amount to anything
- You are worthless
- You just can’t control yourself
- There is nothing you can do to change
I talked about a 6th grade teacher that said I’d never make it though junior high.
If we put away lying, what truth do we use to replace it? I offered the following:
- You are created in God’s image
- You are loved and forgiven by God
How does that message change our outlook as we start the day, or find ourselves struggling with life’s problems? Would you find it encouraging if someone reminded you of those truths? It gave the guys food for thought.
“Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.
I asked who was their neighbor. They pointed to the other guys in the room or mentioned their cellie (cell mate). I asked if neighbor included the COs (correctional officers) and one of the guys shouted out, “F*#k no!” I guess he felt like he didn’t need to lie about his feelings.
Be angry, and do not sin
It was surprising to them that anger might still be part of the Christian life. William Barclay’s commentary says, “There must be anger in the Christian life, but it must be the right kind of anger.”
First we talked about the wrong kinds of anger. Some of these guys have anger management issues. Something sets them off and they are acting entirely on emotion and adrenaline. This is the short-fuse anger. Another type of wrong anger is the one where someone just stuffs and stuffs their feelings and puts on a happy face until finally they explode all over whoever happens to be in the area.
There is a righteous anger when it comes to injustice, oppression, or where people are being wronged. God doesn’t want us to be oblivious to these things. Oftentimes it starts with seeing those behaviors within ourselves and dealing with them.
Do not let the sun go down on your wrath
We talked about practical ways to do that even while behind bars. What do you do with anger at the end of each day? Several of the guys suggested that praying to God about it was a good plan.
Let him who stole steal no longer
I told about a guy I frequently visited in prison. One day he was quite upset. He was housed in a lower security unit – basically it was a gymnasium filled with bunk beds and housed about 100 guys barracks-style. Each man had a footlocker they could use for storing valuables. He said he had a $5 bill that he put under his pillow rather than in his footlocker as he went to shower. When he came back the money was gone and he was angry about it. I knew he had been in prison for 3 years and that the inmates were not paid in cash, so I asked him how it was that he had a $5 bill. He was suddenly very vague about its origin. Apparently he was bothered about theft only when he was the victim.
We talked about employment options on the outside. If all you have known is stealing, drug-dealing, or other gang activities what are your options? One guy said he was really good at handling guns, but now as a convicted felon he would not be able to own or use them. I talked about what I had seen some guys do for careers on the outside I talked about they guy who started Big House Beans.
There are even fewer choices while in prison. I’ve known guys who were at a prison that had 1200 guys, but there were only jobs for 700 of them. What do you do if there is no job? This scripture doesn’t say the work is in order to support yourself.
that he may have something to give him who has need
The idea is that you are able to help someone who has a need. I’ve known guys who became skilled at chess, cribbage, or scrabble. Sometimes the “gift” is just helping someone pass the time as they serve out their sentence.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth
There was some discussion about what the word “corrupt” meant in this context. The guys preferred to think of this as saying “don’t build yourself up at the expense of others.” This dovetailed with the part of the verse, “but what is good for necessary edification”. No one knew what edification meant, but when I explained it meant to instruct someone in order to improve them, that seemed to make sense with the first part of the verse.
Grace: They knew if wasn’t like a graceful dancer or athlete. Substituting the phrase, “God’s love and mercy” seemed to work.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God
Don’t give God grief.
“all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking”
They have heard guys who were getting locked up, (including themselves) that were demonstrating all those things.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
I’ve heard other inmate say that it takes the most courage to be kind and tenderhearted while behind bars.