My son Joel is busting, I mean really busting to see the new Transformers film, Dark of The Moon. It got me thinking about the whole transformation thing, and how fascinated we are with how things shift, change, evolve; that life is not static, but rather an emerging reality as we live it.
Several weeks ago some of the young adults in my Church (Seaforth Baptist) led a prayer and reflection in our service. It was extraordinary. Lincoln read this excerpt from Max Lucado’s book, In the Grip of Grace:
Near the city of Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, is a remarkable facility. Twenty years ago the Brazilian government turned a prison over to two Christians. The institution was renamed Humaita, and the plan was to run it on Christian principles. With the exception of two full-time staff, all the work is done by inmates. Families outside the prison adopt an inmate to work with during and after his term. Chuck Colson visited the prison and made this report:
‘When I visited Humaita I found the inmates smiling, particularly the murderer who held the keys, opened the gates and let me in. Wherever I walked I saw men at peace. I saw clean living areas, people working industriously. The walls were decorated with Biblical sayings from Psalms and Proverbs … My guide escorted me to the notorious prison cell once used for torture. Today, he told me, that block houses only a single inmate. As we reached the end of a long concrete corridor and he put the key in the lock, he paused and asked, “Are you sure you want to go in?”
“Of course,” I replied impatiently, “I’ve been in isolation cells all over the world”. Slowly he swung open the massive door, and I saw the prisoner in that punishment cell: a crucifix, beautifully carved by the Humaita inmates – the prisoner Jesus, hanging on a cross.
“He’s doing time for the rest of us,” my guide said softly.’”
It’s a beautiful story. But (and maybe this says something about me) I must confess that when I hear stories like this my immediate reaction is one of fear that the facts have been somewhat embellished by a well-meaning Christian and then the story gathers a momentum of its own. Happily in this instance this is not the case. The Humaita Prison experiment has been validated by numerous independent bodies, including the Criminal Justice Centre in the United States. For an online report click here
The report comments on the remarkably low recidivism rates at Humaita Prison (16% compared with 70%ii for Brazilian Prisons across the board and 63% recidivism rate in Australian male prisonersiii) and notes that the unique methodology is faith-based.
But back to the main thing: The point of all this is that it is in the very character of God to reconcile and renew. It’s not something he chooses; it is who he is.
The cross rightly holds a central place emotionally and theologically with our evangelical Churches. It is the great love symbol; love that never quits. It is the place, as the Psalmist so evocatively proclaims, where ‘Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other’ (Psalm 85:10).
And even so this is not the end of the process. Jesus is resurrected; the firstborn from among the dead, the guarantee of what is to come for all those who put their lives in his pierced hands.
This same Jesus is in the process of transforming the lives of the people with whom you work. Sometimes he does this remarkably, even cataclysmically, sometimes quietly and invisibly. But he is transforming.
It’s what he does. And he calls you to join him to be a transformer.
And in the process He’s continuing to transform you too, into his image, with ever increasing glory.
Keep going, my friends. And stay close to the King.