Making a virtue of vacillation

Originally posted on

Posted March 26, 2015, 09:24 a.m.

Because people saved in prison sometimes fall away after release, the term “jailhouse conversion” has come to mean disingenuous religion or a ploy for leniency with the parole board. I don’t think so. Men really do come to faith while incarcerated, and if some slip away afterward it is not because repentance wasn’t authentic but because the world outside God’s woodshed is full of traps and they let down their guard.

A certain inmate was a great encouragement to me in our 10-year correspondence, far too much of a paper trail to be faked. When my faith was middling, his soared. Under the mighty hand of God’s discipline, he said no to drugs, gangs, sex, porn, and foul language. He was bold in evangelism to his cellies. There was something sharp and clear in his speech that is rare enough in any Christian setting.

I spoke to him on the phone last week and something wasn’t sharp and clear anymore. He has a girlfriend now. We got into a discussion of dating and I kept talking about “purity,” but he kept saying “nobody’s perfect.” I told him that sounded like he was already planning to fall, and that anybody who answers an exhortation to purity by saying “nobody’s perfect” has opened the door a crack to the devil. (I told him the devil only needs a crack.) He replied that I need to “have a little faith in” him, repeating it several times as other red flags popped up.

He said the woman had invited him to her bedroom…

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