August 5, 2008
Tuesday, 2:30 p.m.
Letter #48: Christ, Commitment, and Character
Greetings! I have much to be grateful for—I’m finding that the more I willfully place myself in the center of God’s will, the easier it is to follow the admonition of scripture to “give thanks in all things” (I Thess. 5:18)! That is, when I’m not just knowing God’s perfect will for my life but acting in harmony with His will, it is easier to rejoice in the midst of my circumstances. Why? Because I can better see how my circumstances can help make me into the man of God I am meant to be. When I choose to show the character of Christ instead of my natural inclinations, I reap a Heavenly outcome. Not necessarily the outcome I want, but the outcome that brings more glory to my Heavenly Father. And, ultimately, that is the outcome I want. Let me illustrate:
Recently, it has become more painfully obvious that my cellie, who professes to be Christian, is actually a confused Jehovah’s Witness. The “JW” label comes from his staunch belief in God the Father as the only One true God. Jesus is not God, but a “lesser god,” etc. The point becomes tedious to argue with him, due to his lack of basic scriptural knowledge (such as the fact that the Hebrew Yahweh is plural, and that John 1:1 refers to Jesus when it says, “In the beginning was the Word … and the Word was God.” He thinks it is a literal spoken item—huh? That is God?!?).
The “confused” label comes from his attendance at—and credibility given to—several other services each week that are dedicated to other religious beliefs, namely, Christian, Jehovah’s Witness, Buddhism, and Muslim/Islamic. He believes in God but has been persuaded by the popularly held belief that everyone who tries his hardest will do just fine (though he believes that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, The Life, as He claimed to be in John 14:6).
Every day, he studies books by various Buddhist Lamas, such as Becoming Your Own Therapist and various publications by the JW’s Watchtower Society, such as What the Bible Really Means. He’s supposedly always on a quest for knowledge—of any kind—and he’s tried to convince me that Buddhism isn’t about religion. (“Then why, on the back of your book, does that Lama refer to him as ‘Lord Buddha?’ ”)
Unfortunately for him, I’m fairly well versed in that topic, thanks to seven weeks of my life I spent trying to convert a young lady I was interested in. There are more sects, denominations, or facets in Buddhism than Christianity—each a different flavor, but essentially all have a form of self-worship, known as “self-discovery,” “enlightenment,” “inner peace,” “mind control,” and the like. We’ve discussed many of the concepts at length and have had to “agree to disagree” for the sake of unity in the cell. This came after he kept treading on some of the doctrines I’m willing to die for, rather than compromise: the Deity of Christ, the Authenticity of Scripture, and the Virgin Birth, among others.
Lorenzo is a very nice, 55-year-old man. However, any person can become quite heated when he is fighting a losing battle. (Those of you who have ever argued with me are feeling empathetic towards Lorenzo, aren’t you?) I’m really not confrontational about much (guys will fight if someone jumps into the shower ahead of you—I just wait until they’re done), but you can’t tell me that Jesus Christ is not God, that there are a lot of missing scriptures, and that Mary wasn’t a virgin (because Christ had brothers and sisters born after Him—!—Really? That’s your best shot?!?) and not expect me to defend the Faith!
I’ll admit, I first reaffirmed my commitment that I am willing to die for these beliefs, knowing that I’m locked in a 6′ x 12′ bathroom with a convicted murderer who believes differently. 🙂 And it is here, at the point of great frustration for me, that I choose to show the character of Christ instead of my own inclinations.
I forgave Lorenzo in my heart for some mean things he did (loudly playing secular music during my Bible Study time, to “teach me a lesson” for making noise throwing away a wrapper as I got ready to leave the cell—after “Get Ready for Day Room” was announced on the loudspeaker … ) and humbled myself, asking his forgiveness for having a divisive spirit instead of a spirit of unity. So? Did I reap a Heavenly outcome? Wow. Lorenzo stuttered, hung his head, and apologized to me! He got all soft-spoken and said he knows my family is praying for me, that they love me and want me to come home soon.
I put my arm around him as he sobbed into his hands, making me cry too. Thank you for your prayers that uphold me and strengthen me to do what is right. I love you all!