January 27, 2011
Thursday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #165: Bad Behavior Will Make a Believer Out of You
Greetings! My Aggravation Meter was hitting Toxic levels last night … sometimes I get so frustrated inside when I see bad behavior! (Do you have an ear I can dump all this in for a few moments? Thanks!) Now, I’m not referring to the poor behavior of the “normal” inmates here—the ones who sneak into each other’s cells to get tattooed, or make pruno (prison wine), or steal supplies from the office, or disrespect the staff—after all, they don’t have a relationship with God, so they’re living life for themselves. It’s to be expected!
What shouldn’t be expected is the shabby character of those who are the King’s kids. I know that every church in every city around the globe has character deficiencies—it’s just that certain types of “flawed behavior” really get me aggravated. Here are a few:
- Holier-Than-Thou: Now, I’m sure none of you have ever known anyone with this fun behavioral quirk, right? In prison, it’s often guys who believe they have a few more spiritual “notches” on their belt than the others. They used to go to church before prison, or they accepted Christ as Savior “x many years ago,” or they stand outside having a Bible Study even in torrential downpours (unlike the spiritual “sissies” who stay inside), they belong to a Bible college, etc.
Well, this all sounds awesome and I’m sure their mom thinks they’re wonderful, but guys who strut their spiritual credibility annoy me.
My responses? Going to church before prison only proves how much of a hypocrite you were then and makes me wonder if you are sincere for God now or not; I came to Christ more than 30 years ago, but I’ve met new believers with greater faith than I have—the Christian walk is not about getting old in Christ but staying as a child!
Standing outside—especially if it’s raining the entire SPCA—is no indicator of sincerity but only of fortitude. Bravo for you. I can quote John 3:16 or the 23rd Psalm while walking on my hands. Sissy you can’t do that, now, can you? Tsk, tsk … and you claim to love God!
Bible Studies, Bible courses, Bible college … they all are meaningless if you remain a hearer of the Word only, and not a doer. (I try to word these responses graciously). 🙂
- Non-Denominational, Etc.: “Prison Christians” only know the prison chapel, never having set foot in an outside church, in most cases. Those who have attended church before prison usually only went to church for weddings or funerals, leaving them with no formal experience of church.
A prevailing thought develops, common to most Prison Christians, that church denominations are bad, serving only to divide Christ’s church. In prison, you don’t get a choice of denomination or church programs or buildings or preachers. You get what exists, and everyone from all denominational preferences worships together. Ignorant that their own beliefs just might line up perfectly with those of a Baptist, Pentecostal, or Brethren background, they call themselves (in a snooty way) non-denominational. Emphasizing the non and mis-pronouncing the rest. Argh!
Even worse, they are extremely experientially-based in their doctrine while having little or no training in church history, doctrines, covenants, and creeds. They even assume that most devotional or inspirational books are not good, since they are not penned by the writers of Scripture, rather than checking everything through the pages of God’s Word as the first century believers in Berea did.
- Complacency: Because it is so obvious in prison who goes to church and who doesn’t, an assumption is made that those who go to church are super-religious. Those men who attend services can often act as if they’ve done their “church duty” for the week and don’t need to spend any additional time with God or in service to Him.
In prison, it is easy to simply carry a Bible or mail in a Bible Study or tell someone “God bless you” when they sneeze to be considered among the passionately religious. Some claim to have a special “deal” they’ve made with God, as if God will leave them alone if they leave Him alone.
Recognize any of this in your church? The Holy Spirit let me know that the things that aggravate me are often behaviors that I do too. In fact, the judgmental, elitist, complacent attitude I was displaying last night wasn’t one of love and belonging and passion for Christ that I should have.
Break me of my pride, Lord! May I learn to see my brothers with eyes of compassion and a servant’s heart. And, when bad behavior grieves me as it grieves You, let me be one who gently restores and nurtures and strengthens. I’m Yours.