Christian Recidivism

Today’s Reading — Galatians 5:13,14 — For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

     I led a spiritual meeting in a local prison for seven years. I choose to minister to the least, so the meeting was held in the cellblock of those whose crimes were so heinous that they needed protection from the general prison population who might otherwise kill them. Over time, these men grew in God, their behavior grew, they became remorseful and repented their crimes. This all seemed like progress, until one of them was released. For you were called to freedom, brethren… We missed him in our weekly meeting, but not for long. Most prisons have a very high recidivism rate (the rate at which released prisoners commit crimes and return) of at least 50%. Freedom misused and misunderstood doesn’t last long. Our friend was soon reconvicted and returned. ….do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh… He had mishandled his freedom.

Earlier in this book Paul compared being under the law to being locked up in prison. When we yield our hearts to Jesus, He sets us free from every bondage, but the Christian recidivism rate is also very high. Sometimes we simply depart our freedom in Christ to return to the law. Other times we misuse our freedom in Christ to freely sin rather than live in freedom from bondage to sin as the Holy spirit empowers our sanctification. Most sin is selfish. It satisfies some flesh need that competes with God. John Calvin said that loving ourselves and loving others are polar opposites, unable to occupy the same heart at the same time. Jesus reminds us that — for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:21)

Some say Christian recidivism is not possible, that the recidivists were never really committed to Christ. Others think it is possible to taste the freedom of the gospel and then return to bondage. I am not making an argument here for either theological position. To do so would require me to look into the hearts of people and read them and that work is in the purvue of the Holy Spirit alone. My point is simple. Are you in danger of being a Christian recidivist? Are you returning to your sin, as the bible says, like a dog returns to its vomit?  I am not speaking here of occasional sin. We will all have that with us until the Lord returns. I am talking about patterns of ongoing sin, ongoing sexual sin, ongoing gossip, ongoing pride, ongoing greed, ongoing misuse of your words toward people and toward God. Are you still imprisoned by your pattern of sin/repentance/repeat, sin/repentance/repeat, sin/repentance/repeat?

&nb sp;     The Lord’s prescription here is simple. Through love serve one another.  When Christ owns our hearts, His love — love that always concerns itself with others more than with self — dominates our hearts. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” The one word is love. Who do you refuse to love? Who do you think you are excused from loving because of their behavior? Who does your heart abandon while you claim the name of Jesus? Do you selfishly love yourself or do you selflessly love others? We’ve found freedom from the law in Christ and the commandments no longer lord themselves over us like prison bars, but we’ve come under a new commandment in Christ, one that Lords not over us but within us — A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34,35)  The bible says — Love never fails, but we can fail to love.

    Are you in danger of Christian recidivism? Are you running from freedom in Christ’s love back to the bondage of to self worship? … one another, even  as I have loved you….

     In Him,


     Copyright 2008 © Stephen Faulkner and Mission of the Master Ministries, Inc.  

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