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Jailhouse Faith

Jailhouse Faith

We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10

It’s easy to be critical of those who, while in legal trouble, claim they believe in God. At a weekly jail Bible study/recovery meeting, I’ve met a lot of guys who confessed faith while incarcerated and then simply returned to their old life once released. It seems like they only believed when their lives were in crisis and once they got out, they didn’t need God anymore. It’s easy to judge this kind of faith as insincere. If, after all, there’s never any evidence of transformation, is that real?

Not long ago, I was being judgmental when it came to one such individual. Though he said he believed, it seemed to me that once he got out of jail, he was still engaging in some behavior that was inconsistent with following Christ. Then I learned that he’d led a buddy to Christ in jail and now, on the outside was taking that buddy to recovery meetings. When I stepped back and looked at his life from a few years ago, there certainly has been an obvious transformation. Was he perfect now? Absolutely not. Has his behavior radically changed since he met Jesus? Absolutely yes.

In today’s passage Paul said that we will all one day stand before Christ to explain our behavior – good and evil – while on Earth. Previously, Paul taught that we’re saved by faith. We cannot earn our salvation. What does this passage mean then? Does our behavior determine whether we’re saved or not? James, brother of Christ, said that faith without works isn’t faith at all. This seems to be what Paul was getting at. We’re saved by faith, but one day, our lives will be analyzed by Christ to see if our behavior reflected any evidence of that faith.

We don’t earn God’s love or forgiveness by what we do. It’s a free gift. If, however, we respond to that gift and claim to believe in him, then it must impact our behavior. If someone analyzed our lives, would they find evidence that we follow God? If our proof is only a dusty Bible and some big sins that we don’t struggle with, we may find that we just don’t have any verification of our so-called faith. If our faith is real, it must have some obvious impact on our way of life. As we abandon ourselves to follow God, it should be obvious to others that we love him as we love those around us.

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