Published: Saturday, March 7, 2009 | 2:05 PM ET Canadian Press
WOODBINE, Ga. – Authorities in Georgia say they arrested an escaped jail inmate trying to sneak back into the lockup with cigarettes allegedly stolen from a nearby store. Sheriff Tommy Gregory said Saturday that 25-year-old Harry Jackson had opened a door to the exercise yard and climbed the outer fence. Deputies found a jail door unlocked early Saturday and were looking for the inmate. They spotted Jackson trying to come back in and found 14 packs of cigarettes they believe were stolen from a convenience store about a block away. Jackson faces new charges of breaking out of jail and burglary. He was already in jail in Camden County in far southeast Georgia for charges including possession of a controlled substance and violating probation.
© The Canadian Press, 2009
It got me thinking, that, laugh all you want, this man is not alone. (And not just in the sense that he’s safely back with all his fellow inmates.) What this fellow did is not all that different from the foolish capers any of us does.
Oh sure, most of you reading this will not be currently incarcerated (I assume), but we are all of us prisoners of a sort. We are prisoners to sin. Kept under lock and key by a sinful, fallen nature that is beyond our control. Guilty of the crimes against God and our fellow man that this sin manifests in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Or at least we were. For in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour we were set free. We couldn’t jimmy the lock ourselves or slip over the fence on our own. This sin-prison is too tight. Instead, the warden – God Himself – came to our cell and set us free. Walked us to the door, opened it up and sent us on our way. Sins forgiven, the price paid, and freedom granted just like that … no questions asked, no parole, nothing.
And what do we do with that Gospel-granted freedom? Too often we turn around and try to get right back into the very place we’ve been freed from. As I study the Catechism again this Lenten season I am struck by how many of the commandments I keep going back to – but not in obedience to God. Why is that? Sin is comfortable. Sin is something we understand. Sin is something we are used to. Sin is easy – it expects so little of us. Sin promises an immediate payoff (like stolen smokes when you crave a cigarette).
But sin is not us anymore. Not in Christ. Try as we might to climb back in that old prison and live like the inmate we once were, we can’t. Jesus’ cross now occupies our old cell and He himself is there by the door to usher us out again, forgiven, freed, and tasked with trying to live once again, life on the outside. But life on the outside is not always easy. Its a big wide world full of love and grace and mercy and freedom. It is a world of overwhelming choices and opportunities. It is now your world in the freedom of Christ … so where are you going to go with it?
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.