We learned this past Sunday that we are all confined under sin and under guard by the Law. To help us understand the constraints of the Law, Jason used the mental picture of the famous prison, Alcatraz.
Since this particular prison was designed to break the spirits of hardened criminals who displayed nasty attitudes, it was a demoralizing experience. I can’t imagine living there or in any other jail or prison.
So I was very surprised to hear that some people actually want to go back into that kind of life. There are comments on the web that help guys figure out exactly what kind of crime to do to maximize your chances of being sent back to just the right prison. (Apparently pretending to hold up a post office -a federal crime, on federal land- is a good choice.)
Some want to go back because life outside is just too scary. There are too many choices, too much responsibility and too much to think about. Others want back into prison for more practical reasons. Some have major health issues and no means to address them. Medical care is available in prison. Others fear an upcoming winter and longingly see prison as a source of “three hots and a cot.”
For some, prison is all they know. The familiar trumps the unknown. Staying on the outside requires strength of character that is not generally fostered in the prison system. These folks are rudderless.
Spiritually, for many, the Old Testament Law does the same thing. Externally, it appears to promote personal development. Keeping the rules is easy to observe and encourage. Immature Christians tend to adjust their behavior to meet the standards imposed. “Don’t do this. Stop that. Make sure you do life just this way!”
Rules make us feel comfortable. It is clear what is expected. Just “stay in line” and all will be well. So on the outside, we look much better. Our behavior gets adjusted and all seems well.
But not really. While the external stuff is relatively easy to deal with, the matters of the heart don’t get addressed. Truth is, we need to be redeemed not just cleaned up. We need to be changed at the fundamental place of character. And the Law can’t do that. The Law just shows us our need for a Savior.
“The Law was put into place to lead us to Christ…”(Galatians 3:24)
So this week if your Christian life feels a bit robotic, if you are emphasizing the externals and looking for peace through your performance, you may be longing (so to speak) to “return to prison.” Please don’t. Instead, turn your eyes upon Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith. A personal relationship with Him brings freedom!