"...know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified."
Galatians 2:16 (NIV)
Ten years ago, I entered into the Nebraska State Penitentiary. I surrendered all of my right. My worth to society became overwhelmingly clear. I was nothing more than a number, another Native American in the jail system, just another statistic.
Upon arrival, I was assigned a number to identify myself. That number was my name, my identity. Everything that belonged to me was labeled with it. My clothing, cups, towels, and sandals, my minimal amount of belongings all labeled with my number. According to the prison system, I was my number and nothing else.
But, I had a cellmate who saw me. His name was Aaron, and, for several months, I despised him. He was always speaking to me about this white man named Jesus. Just the name made me angry. He would tell me Jesus loved me and wanted to give me this free gift of Salvation. I told him over and over again that this heavenly father of his would never give me any free gift.
Within a few months, much to my relief, Aaron was transferred out of my cell. My mind could finally rest. But, it didn’t. I kept returning to his words. Soon, Aaron was transferred back into my room. In our time apart, my heart was softened toward him, and I welcomed his words, words I had hungered for.
I began to read my Bible, but it was confusing. Then one day, while reading Galatians 2:16, God removed the scales from my eyes, and it all made sense. I finally understood what Aaron had been talking about. I jumped off my bunk, ran across the prison yard, found the chaplain, and was baptized that day.
Now, every Easter I am reminded of that moment, sitting in my cell, unworthy of anything, when God showed me His free gift.
He paid a debt he did not owe, And I owed a debt I could not pay
I needed someone to wash my sins away,
Now I'm singing a brand new song-of that happy day (from "He Paid a Debt")
Thank you, loving Father, for paying this debt for me. For making me more than a number, but your precious child. In Jesus' name, Amen.