A powerful ministry to prison inmates is under way in Kenya.
A group called the King’s Messengers, sponsored by the East- Central Africa Division, recently paid a series of visits to a prison in Nairobi housing 3,500 men. Rather than merely preach, the King’s Messengers conducted free medical check-ups and offered treatments for the sick. Seven hundred inmates were treated in conjunction with nursing and medical staff from the Adventist University of Eastern Africa Baraton, based in Kenya. Benson Obolla, one of the leaders of the ministry, said, “We were the first outsiders ever to be allowed to conduct a medical camp in the prison and the authorities were very excited with the results.”
Once the ministry of healing hands softened the hearts of the inmates, the King’s Messengers offered the King’s message by placing in each inmate’s hands, a Bible and a set of study guides provided by Light Bearers. As a result, says Obolla, “we baptized 213 prisoners.”
Those men in Nairobi are behind bars for a reason, and the reason reaches deeper than their deeds. There is a more fundamental bondage that lies behind their physical bondage.
We were the first outsiders ever to be allowed to conduct a medical camp in the prison and the authorities were very excited with the results.
Incarceration is the native condition of all human beings. The apostle Paul says all of us are “slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6).
At the core of our bondage is a deep-seated “enmity [hostility] against God” and His “law” of other-centered love (Romans 8:7; 13:10). And that enmity is rooted in the fact that we have believed lies about God, which in turn arouses mistrust and rebellion in our hearts (Genesis 3:1-11). This internal bondage—ingrained in our mental, emotional and spiritual natures—is the root cause of all the external actions that bring us into social, relational, and physical bondage.
But freedom may be ours, by one powerful and empowering means.
There is something very specific that every human being needs in order to be set free from bondage to sin. Jesus pinpointed the catalyst of our liberation in these words: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
By loving her without condemnation, Jesus set her free internally. Then, in the illuminating light of his forgiveness, He empowered her to be free externally, on the behavioral level.
But what truth, precisely? Lots of things are true, but they do not necessarily constitute “the truth” of which Jesus speaks. Fortunately, we don’t need to guess what Jesus had in mind because, in the immediate foregoing context, He clearly revealed the truth that sets us free. In fact, He actively applied that truth to someone’s heart and she was, indeed, set free.
I speak, of course, of the Savior’s epic encounter with the woman caught in adultery, recorded in the earlier verses of John 8. Like all of us, she was in a condition of internal bondage to a false conception of God. As a result, she was also in external bondage to a life of sin. As she lay there on the ground in tears before Him, weighed down with her shame, Jesus spoke the truth that set her free: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11). By loving her without condemnation, Jesus set her free internally. Then, in the illuminating light of his forgiveness, He empowered her to be free externally, on the behavioral level.
A crowd had gathered by now to witness this woman’s encounter with God in the flesh. Once she had been liberated by the power of His love, He turned to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Jesus is telling them that His forgiving love is the light the world needs. He has also made clear that the condemnation projected upon the woman in God’s name, holding her in bondage to sin, is the darkness we all need liberation from. It is in this context that Jesus spoke His famous words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Clearly, then, the truth that sets us free is the truth of God’s non-condemning love revealed in Christ.
That’s what those inmates in Nairobi encountered as loving hands sought to bring healing to their bodies and the light of truth was then delivered into their minds by the agency of gospel literature.