“Jail house religion” is a sad reality that people in prison and jail face at times. Some of that is our fault. Finding out that Jesus died for you and accepting Him as Lord doesn’t depend on your location or social status. Many of the men and women incarcerated truly do find Salvation in our Lord only to be released back to the same environment that they came from. This resulting so many times in them falling away from what they had found on the inside.
It is hard to understand the mindset that you end up with after being in prison/jail. It’s just like anything else in our lives. We become a product of our surroundings. The way we think becomes different. Our perspectives of right and wrong tend to change. This happens because you live by a different set of rules on the inside. The “code of conduct” for the inmates isn’t the same for you and I out here.
The relationship with Christ for some is true and genuine but in a different environment. The temptations and trials aren’t the same. They’re not the same because it’s a controlled environment; inmates don’t have the same freedoms to act on. Sure there are gangs, drugs, homemade alcohol and even sex in prison and some jails. The thing about that is it’s not as easy and readily available like on the streets. The old saying in really true, “You can’t con a con man”. In prison and jail, to truly profess Jesus as Lord, puts you under a magnifying glass. The other inmates watch you close to see how true your words are.
I can remember the weeks leading up to my release from prison. The excitement of being on the “outside”. I truly felt that I was ready to “take on the world”. I had been reading and praying most of my time on the inside. I volunteered for any Church thing that they let me be involved in. We were having Bible studies and nightly prayer calls. Man I was ready! But the reality was that I wasn’t, and some of my Christian brothers on the inside tried to warn me. I had built up a false sense of my strength in Christ. If not prepared properly, going from the inside to the outside world is kind of like one year playing pee-wee football and the next trying to play in college football. If you tried that you would get killed out there on the field.
When I was released, the world was overwhelming. With no real structure and support group it didn’t take long for me to fall back into my old ways. Sure I had my family; my mom came and picked me up the day of my release. But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for all the choices I was going to be able to make. I had a good friend of my mom’s, which was and is a Christian man that gave me a job when I got out. He even invited me to go to Bible study with him. I went a few times but the draw and pull of the old self was so strong.
Not every person experiences a true conversion while in jail or prison. But just because they fall after they get out doesn’t mean that they haven’t. I’ve had a few times in my life where I’ve decided to change and live for God. Some of those times I didn’t want to change everything, holding on to some of the bad. I would soon revert back to my old ways and this time even be worse than before. It kind of makes me think of Matthew 12:43-45. Jesus tells us “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
The importance of having a place to go rather than back to the environment that sent them there. A place to adjust to not being on the inside is crucial. It is so structured in there; when to eat and what to eat, where you work, what you wear. All the things we take for granted out here in the world. Jumping into it is overwhelming to some. Yes some men make it and only grow stronger, but so many don’t and we have an opportunity to help them and guide them into the direction God wants them to go.
Finding our identity in Christ requires us to redefine ourselves. The way we handle everyday life, every day common situations. Most of us only have to do that once. But for those coming out of prison or jail, they have to do it twice. Almost as if they are a “new” Christian again. Without the proper support from us it is very difficult.