Walking Our Faith: What the Kairos Prison Ministry taught me about forgiveness
Walking Our Faith
And Jesus answering, said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?”
“A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.”
And (Jesus) said to him, “You have judged rightly.” — Luke 7:40-43
We don’t give a lot of thought to the topic of forgiveness unless we think we’ve been wronged. It feels more comfortable to point out the flaws in another person than to contemplate our own need for forgiveness.
Yet acknowledging our need for forgiveness is an essential part of becoming more fully loving and free to accept love. Forgiveness releases the burden of anger and fear that we carry, not realizing the walls it creates in our relationships.
And as Jesus concluded in the parable of the two debtors, the one who most needs forgiveness is often the one who expresses the greatest gratitude when they are forgiven. And there occurs the transformational moment for the forgiven and the forgiving person.
As its name suggests, Kairos Prison Ministry International, Inc. is a Christian ministry working to bring the message of God‘s love and forgiveness to incarcerated individuals as well as their families to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.
Kairos volunteers host weekend long retreats within prisons. During the three and a half day weekend, the prisoners (participants) are provided an introductory course in Christianity. They learn the importance of seeking forgiveness and forgiving those who have harmed them. And they begin to form a Christian community.
By the end of the weekend they are asked to accept God‘s forgiveness of their sins and embrace God‘s love and message of salvation.
The Kairos presentation I attended last weekend was hosted by Pat Dolan, a longtime resident of Summit County. Pat has been a volunteer with the Kairos’ prison ministry for ten years.
Over the course of the presentation we heard from Daniel, a former Kairos participant who recently finished a 25 year sentence and had attended a Kairos weekend. Daniel spoke of the transformational impact it had on his life while he was in prison and in his life since, as well as the positive impact on other participants, and over the general prison population.
Next we heard from several Summit County men who are Kairos volunteers. I was moved by their descriptions of how the volunteer experience has also transformed their lives.
They shared how their spiritual lives were deepened, how they learned to see the men sitting across the table not as prisoners, but children of God, like themselves. As one volunteer put it: But for the grace of God, that might’ve been me.
The Kairos prison ministry asks if we good Christians are willing to extend the hand of God‘s love to those, who are in prison. To see them as worthy of God‘s love as we are. Because that is what God has said to them and to us, and asked us to be the bearers of his message to those who have not heard it.
Jesus told us we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Yet, he died to forgive each of us. Now he asks us to carry that message of forgiveness and salvation to everyone. Especially those who need it most. And that means you and me and those whose actions we find most difficult to forgive. And when we go to them, we find God already there, forgiving and loving them, forgiving and loving us.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16).
Kairos Prison Ministry consists of:
- Kairos Inside: to build a Christian community inside the prison institution through weekends, weekly prayer groups and monthly reunions.
- Kairos Outside: to support women who have relatives/friends who are incarcerated
- Kairos Torch: a mentoring program for incarcerated offenders ages 25 and younger.
To learn more, go to KairosPrisonMinistry.org.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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