I spent a couple of hours yesterday at The Monastery. Not the one pictured above. The monastery I visited is better known as “Death Row” at Angola. “Death” doesn’t seem an appropriate name based on the residents I have come to know there.
I have met only ten of the eighty plus Monastery residents. I have no idea if these ten are representative of the whole. Perhaps, they are not. It would be understandable if the administration put forth the ten most impressive inmates to take part in the first ever Kairos in the facility. I’m pretty sure there are some meaner and nastier customers inside who are in no way followers of Jesus.
I was recently asked if I thought “any” of the ten had really given their lives to Christ. I am as convinced that they all have as much as I am convinced about the spiritual state of those in my church. These men are incredibly impressive. They are students of scripture and display an authentic love of the Lord they follow. I wish my prayer and share meetings on the outside came close to the ones in The Monastery. In the groups I am familiar with outside, most of the conversation is about sports or hunting or health. You are lucky if Jesus is even mentioned. Participants seem satisfied with a little “lite” fellowship.
Discussions at the Monastery are focused and deep. To a follower of Christ, life on Death Row could seem like life in a monastery. A resident has lots of time alone. There is freedom from the “distractions” of family life, making a living, and maintaining a social calendar. There is plenty of time, just you and God. There is unlimited time to know Him and His word. From that comes the focus and the depth. We could all use a lot more of that.
On Sunday, we had lots of kids in our Resurrection Sunday service. Our pastor fancies himself a magician. He’s actually pretty good. He produced three ropes of different lengths. He explained that if each rope represented a list of our sins, most of us would proclaim that the shortest best represented our sin list. Through slight of hand, he made the ropes all appear to become the same length. He pointed out that this is how God sees our sin lists, all the same. All have sinned and fallen short.
Yesterday at the Monastery I was asked the difference between Christians inside and outside. I used the three rope example. On the outside, we tend to think our sin lists are short. In the Monastery, most view their sin lists as very long. It’s easier to minister to someone who recognizes their sinful state and need for a savior. The biggest challenge out here in the “free world” is the lack of recognition of our depravity and a compulsion to believe that God grades on the curve.
We could all use a little more monastery time. We could all use a little less pride and a lot more recognition that there are better followers than us out there: some live in deplorable poverty, under constant persecution or in monastery-like prison confinement. If you think your sin list is short, think again and get thee to a convent or a monastery.