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Talking to a killer in a Matamoros jail

Jorge was 32 years old when I visited him in a Matamoros jail.  The angry bruise on his forehead and his cracked ribs testified to his recent failed escape.  Sitting in the prison infirmary, he was the picture of cocky impudence.  His smile and easy laugh seemed as winsome as his l…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Jorge was 32 years old when I visited him in a Matamoros jail.  The angry bruise on his forehead and his cracked ribs testified to his recent failed escape.  Sitting in the prison infirmary, he was the picture of cocky impudence.  His smile and easy laugh seemed as winsome as his life was evil.  He talked to me about spiritual matters.

“Why would I stay in this place?  I’ve kidnapped 18 people and killed 33 others.  They’ve locked me away for life.  Better that I die trying to escape.  Let me ask you something – my nine year-old daughter told me, ‘Papa, don’t buy me anything for Christmas; use the money to get out of jail.’  How do you think that makes me feel?  And my mother says she believes in God, but she won’t come visit me.  Why should I believe in that kind of a God?”

Jorge is not your average guy off the street.  I learned during my first visit a week earlier that all he really wanted was to match wits and take a wrecking ball to his visitors’ faith.  The best tack, I realized, was to keep it simple.  “Jorge, you can say what you like.  You can say this chair doesn’t exist, but there it is just the same.  Your saying that God doesn’t exist won’t change two basic facts: He does exist and he loves you.”

His response was quick, “Why should I be a hypocrite?  Isn’t it worse to tell you that I’m going to believe in God when I know I’m going to turn my back on him?”

“You’re right, Jorge.  It’s better not to be a hypocrite.  It’s wrong for your mother to not come visit you here.  I can understand how you feel.  You need to know that people are always going to disappoint you.  But that doesn’t change the fact that God loves you.”

“Yeah, well, if he exists, he hasn’t done much for me lately,” Jorge smirked.

Just then a cellmate spoke up.  “Jorge, are you denying that miracle that happened last month when you tried to escape?  The guards had you cornered and were going to kill you right there, but then a man came running up and said, ‘don’t shoot.’  What about that?”

“That doesn’t mean anything.  It just happened.”

In the end, Jorge asked for my address and said that we’d be friends.  He even accepted a prayer, but nothing seemed to change.  I left him, mired in his own dark world.

Comments (7)

  • Why would you lie to him and tell him that God loves him? God very clearly hates murderers and ones who love violence. This man stands condemned, he is an enemy of God, he desperately needs forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God.

  • The love shown by God to sinners was a one time event, there is absolutely no precedent to tell a sinner today that God loveS them, because he clearly doesn’t, his wrath abides on them.

    Psalm 11:5 says God hates even the one who loves violence. I wrote a long treatise on how God loves and hates, and Jorge is definitely hated by God, so you ought not lie to him. http://trustobey.blogspot.com/2008/11/hate-well.html

  • Sometimes when I listen to the stories of inmates, I’m am “scratching my head” wondering how they can be so deceived to think that what they are saying is “normal” or even okay. It shows me just how clouded our minds can become when our understanding is darkened by sin.

    But then it also makes me think of ways that my own understanding is still darkened. I still frequently have moments where God highlights my own distorted perspectives and shows me how foolish my logic is at times.

    I too, have come to the conclusion that reasoning does little good. There is always another question or argument to put on the table. I’ve decided instead to appeal to love, and focus on introducing God as the lover who pursues us, and the Savior who redeems and is restoring us to the perfect, uncorrupted, image of God we were created to be. I can only trust that love always triumphs.

  • Canyon, I think God clearly states he does love this man and you and me all the same. “but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8. And then, “you have heard it said, ‘you shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’ But i tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.” Matthew 5:21&22 Thank God he loved me while I was still “a sinner”- my sin is no different from this man’s.

  • I had never relized how much God LOVES the captives. Mytwo favorite days on my Race were the day we met with inmates in Bangkok and the day I got to hang out at preach in a prison in Panama.
    Good story, Seth. God does love Jorge SO much.

  • Do not twist the scriptures to your way of thinking God does love each and every one of us just the same

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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