Forgiven in Prison, Part 2
By Andrew McChesney
The next Sabbath, inmate Matías greeted Dante, a 36-year-old theology student from Sagunto Adventist College, with a flurry of happy conversation at the prison in Spain. After several minutes, however, Matías abruptly changed his tone and began to fidget nervously. He spoke about his childhood and adult life. He described a years-long struggle over sinful desires.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong,” he said. “When I leave prison, I’ll repeat what I did.” He stared at Dante, waiting to see his reaction.
Dante understood that he was being tested. Matías wanted to see whether he would reflect a condemning or a loving God. Dante prayed silently, “Jesus, give me Your grace. You forgave me, and You can forgive him.”
Matías, seeing that his visitor sat calmly, spoke again.
“What would you do to me if you caught me?” he said.
Dante, still praying, answered slowly, “If God can give me grace and salvation, He can give you grace and salvation, too.”
Shock twisted Matías’ face. “Aren’t you going to condemn me?” he said.
Opening the Bible, Dante read, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:19-20; NJKV). “We often don’t understand our actions,” he said. “We don’t do what we want to do, and we end up doing what we don’t want to do. Could it be that you don’t feel bad about your actions because you can’t control them?”
Matías grabbed the Bible from Dante’s hands and read the passage.
Dante turned to Romans 8:1-2 and read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
“God hasn’t condemned you,” Dante said. “He wants to help you, and He loves you all the time. You can live differently. You just have to let the Spirit of God live in you. He wants to help you just like He helped me.”
Deep sorrow filled Matías’ face. The scorn and contempt were gone. Dante understood that, for the first time, Matías was experiencing a deep sense of guilt.
Everything changed from that day. Matías stopped mocking God and the Bible.
“From that moment, I started to study the Bible with him,” Dante said in an interview. “From that moment, he wanted to change his life. He no longer wanted to continue in his old ways but to be on God’s side.”
Matías (not his real name) is among more than a dozen prisoners receiving Bible studies every Sabbath afternoon from Dante and nine other students from Sagunto Adventist College. Your Sabbath School mission offerings help Adventist educational institutions worldwide train students like Dante to share Jesus’ precious promise of grace and salvation to a sin-sick world.
“If God can change my heart, God can change anybody’s heart,” Dante said.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. Find more mission stories at adventistmission[dot]org