From the Good News Monthly Magazine (August, 2019)
"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. ... And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.” (Exodus 21:2-6)
“WHEN I LEAVE, I WILL RETURN.”
In 1987, I was imprisoned for the crime of robbery and murder, and after a 16 year sentence, I was released in 2003. This is what occurred six months before I was released: I entered prison at the age of 23, and I was released after I turned 39. I spent my youth in prison, which is why I told myself, “When I get out, I can never come back.” While I was in prison for 16 years, I saw many people released. As they were walking out, every one of them said, “Now that I am getting out, I am never coming back.” However, I have seen so many instances where those who were released returned. That was especially true with the long-term prisoners. The president of the Christian prisoners, the president of the Buddhist prisoners, and the president of the Catholic prisoners were lived their spiritual lives like angels while in prison. Looking at them, we would tell ourselves, “That person has really changed while in prison. He probably will not return to prison.” However, as I saw them released and then return to prison, my heart crumbled. Because those prisoners had not caused a single incident while they were in prison, they became model prisoners and were released. However, I started trouble every day and caused problems. I was a trouble-making prisoner. Comparing myself with them, I was an utterly lacking person. Those people who were much nicer and diligent than I all left saying, “I will never come back to prison,” but they eventually returned. Therefore, it would be impossible for me to never come back. I felt, “When I leave, I will surely return.”
“IF I GO TO MY FATHER, WHAT WILL HAPPEN?”
I was afraid of leaving prison. “Where would I go? Father has been waiting for me for 16 years, I should go home to him. But if I go home to my father, what would happen?” I began to imagine saying, “Father, I’m home.” He would reply, “Ki-Sung, you’re home. I know you have suffered so long.” I would then answer, “No, Father, you were the one who suffered.” As I am conversing with my father, my old friends would come and see me. They would say, “Ki-Sung, you suffered so much. I’m sorry I didn’t come to visit you in prison. But to celebrate your release, drinks are on me. Let’s go.” I realized that if I went to my father, then I would surely have to meet my friends. If I were to meet my friends, then I would have to take a drink. I then came to the conclusion that if I were to drink again, I would definitely go back to prison.
When I thought it through, I felt that I should not return to my father, and so I wrote a letter to my father back home. It read, “Father, I will be released in a short while, and I know that when I am released, I should come visit you. But no matter how I think about it, I do not think I can go to you. If I go to you, then my friends would surely come and find me. If I meet my friends, I will have to take a drink. But if I start to drink, I will return to prison. Father, please forgive me. I do not want to return to prison.” A reply came from my father: “My son, you don’t have to come to me. I don’t want you to return to prison either. Don’t worry about anything else, and go to your pastor, who can lead you.”
I then wrote a letter to my friends because they promised to pick me up when I would be released from prison. I wrote, “Please don’t come to me. My release date has changed, so even if you do come, you won’t be able to meet me. I will contact you when my release date is determined. So, please don’t come.”
“JUST DON’T MAKE ME RETURN TO PRISON.” Many prisoners are very mistaken about something. While in prison, prisoners do not steal, do drugs, or commit crimes. As a result, they think they have changed, however, have they really changed? Prison is not a place where you can do whatever you want. The reason why they have not committed any crimes is not because they have truly changed, but it is because the prison guards are watching over them with guns and they are within prison walls. Because the prison guards strongly governed and guided me, I was able to live in prison without committing any crimes. God taught me this fact, “People become happy and the cleanest when they receive guidance and governance.”
I wrote a letter to the author of the sermon book that taught me the way of salvation, The Secret of the Forgiveness of Sin and Being Born Again. “Pastor, I have nowhere to go. Please accept me. I have too many ambitions. I cannot control myself. Please help me. If you tell me to sit, I’ll sit. And if you tell me to lay down, I’ll lay down. Just don’t let me return to prison.”
“I HAVE NOT BEEN RELEASED ONCE IN MY HEART.” On the day of my release, the pastor of the church in the area came to pick me up. I did not go home, but I moved into the church. When I was released in 2003, my body was out of prison, but I brought the walls and fences of prison with me in my heart. In my heart, I was still not released. Afterwards, the church and the guidance of the servant of God became my new walls and fence in my heart. I was so overjoyed to be able to come to church and clean the bathrooms and take out the garbage. I was a person who should have been in prison all that time. Instead, I was in the holy church cleaning the bathrooms. I was very thankful. After one month, then two months, I was so thankful that I still out of prison.
“REALIZE THAT LISTENING TO THE VOICE OF THE GUIDE IS LIFE.” The Hebrew servant, mentioned in the Bible, would serve his master for six years, and on the seventh year, he could be free. When the opportunity to be free is presented to him, he must decide. He would have to ask himself things like what were the results when he believed in his self? And when he lived serving his master, was he happy? Why was he sold into slavery in the first place? If he was successful while believing in himself, he would never have been sold as a slave. He was ruined by believing in himself, and because he had no other way, he was sold as a slave to someone else. That is how he came to live serving his master. And as he lived serving his master for a long time, his master pitied him and allowed him to marry. He then had a pretty wife and children. He lived joyfully.
On the day of the seventh year of serving his master, he gives up his freedom. It is because the life he lived serving the master was overly joyful. He then goes to his master and tells him that he wants to surrender his freedom. Since he loves his master, his wife, and his children, he decides not to be free. Then, the master would take this servant to the door post and bore his ear through with an awl. The piercing of the ear means, “From now on, I will forever live listening to the voice of my master. While I receive the guidance of the master, I lived a joyful life “YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE WORDS OF THE CHURCH!” In prison, there was a person who had received salvation. This saved inmate, who served over 25 years in prison because of drugs, was released around the same time as I was. However, he was later in and out of prison over five more times. He came to visit me each time he was released. “Brother, I am completely clean this time for sure. I quit drugs.” “Did you really quit drugs? Have you come to your senses?” “Yes.” “Are you really clean?” “Yes, I’m certain.” “You shouldn’t think you’re clean because in six months you’ll go back. You’ve got to come to your senses!” “Brother, why are you cursing me? I am clean.” Then after about three months, he said, “Brother, I am very happy. When I see people doing drugs, I feel so much pity for them. I want to make them all like me.” “Go ahead.” After five months, he contacted me. “Brother, last night I received a call from a woman who used to do drugs with me in the past. I feel so much pity for this woman. I want to rescue her from drugs. I want to preach the gospel to her.” “Don’t go.” “Brother, why? God will protect me.” “Even so, don’t go.” “Ah, I don’t understand.” That day, he went to meet that woman without me knowing. Then he preached the gospel. After he was done talking, the woman pulled out a syringe and placed it on top of the Bible. The moment he saw the syringe, he was dragged regardless of his will and did drugs. Later, he returned to prison. With the same process, he went back to prison more than five times. On the sixth time he was released, he said that this time he had become clean for sure. Again, about four months later, he said that the woman whom he had done drugs in the past came looking for him. He felt pity for her and wanted to save her from drugs. I told him not to go, but he still said, “Pastor, why can’t you believe in God? God will protect me.”
“Hey, the god that you believe in, did he even once protect you from drugs? If he did, then tell me about it. He didn’t protect you even once. How did Captain Naaman become free from leprosy? Did God appear to him directly and heal him? He didn’t. He listened to the words of Prophet Elisha. You have to listen to the words of the church!” He thought he had changed, and that is why he did not receive guidance. Just like the Hebrew servant who said, “I love my master, my wife and children,” spiritual life is about realizing that following the guide is life.