Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel." Mark 1:14-15
Rodney Dwayne Valentine had paid his debt to society.
Valentine had entered the Rockingham County, North Carolina, jail on May 22nd. He served his sentence without incident or difficulty. That's why it was no surprise to Valentine when the sheriff's office told him he was free, and it was time for him to return to society.
When the officers refused to chauffeur him to the place he wanted to go, Valentine refused to leave the jail, and he kept on refusing. Indeed, he stayed in that jail so long the police eventually re-arrested him, charged him with second-degree trespassing, and threw him into the hoosegow.
When I first read that bit of news, I thought, what a unique story! Then, after a while, I realized Valentine's story is anything but unique. Indeed, his story is the story of millions of people.
Let me explain: if you read through Scripture, you will find certain themes are repeated again and again. One of those themes is God's calling sinners to repentance. In the Gospels we have the Baptizer speaking to people out in the wilderness. His message was one of repentance. When John was taken out of commission, Jesus took up the summons and asked His disciples to do the same.
Mark sums it all up in a few short words. Jesus said, "... the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel."
Since those days the faithful church has continued to proclaim the same message: be turned from the sinner you were and be remade into a forgiven soul, who is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
It is God's truth we are glad to share. Jesus has paid our debt -- not to society -- but to the Lord. Now all who with a repentant heart acknowledge the Christ as their Savior are forgiven and given eternal life.
Like Rodney Dwayne Valentine, we are free. Sadly, too many people don't want to leave their sins behind. Too many people want to stay just where they are: doomed and damned because of the sins to which they still cling.
It is a terrible and preventable tragedy. This is why today we pray for those souls who -- without a repentant faith -- will find themselves thrown into eternal prison.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, there are many souls who refuse to be changed. If possible, use us and the Savior's story of salvation to reach them. By Your power, turn their hearts and change their lives, so they, like us, may be forgiven and free. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries