Nobody's Old Is Gold.
A couple of years or so ago, someone from the organization in which I serve in my local jail through, formerly called “Forgotten Man Ministries” (FMM), shared a discussion that addressed the issue of recidivism (inmates returning to jail after release) via email. He was promoting an educational program (GRO) in conjunction with this; something that I was, and still am in full support of (unfortunately it was put aside and remains so, due to the covid business). Below is a slightly edited version of my response to this discussion. I felt compelled to share it with you all, as I believe that the general principle presented in it is universally relevant.
We all indeed want to see recidivism reduced; making efforts to do so are of paramount importance, and I am 100% behind them (including the GRO pod).
That being said, I believe that we must use a healthy measure of caution when using numbers regarding recidivism as a benchmark on which to measure the success (or lack thereof) of our ministry. I firmly believe that our first and foremost goal at FMM needs to be that of seeing to it that people receive and believe on the pure and unadulterated message of the Gospel (John 3, Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Cor. 15: 1-4, John 14:6, 1:12, 6: 47, Acts 16:31, Rom. 6:23, 11:6, etc.). Of course when one believes the Gospel he/she receives the irrevocable second birth (John 3, Eph. 1:13, Rom. 11:29); being born of God; a birth which is sinless, thus incapable of sinning (1 John 3:9).
The issue that we must be very mindful of, is that all of us regenerate believers still carry around our old sinful flesh as well as the new nature (Rom. 7: 14-25, Gal. 5: 16, etc.). Some of us in our old sinful flesh are more volatile and unsavory in many respects than are others. We all know probably know people who are not Christians who are very nice, and perhaps we even much more prefer their company over many of our Christian acquaintances (I, for one still experience this first hand). A true Christian is of course someone who has trusted Christ as savior and has thus been born again, period. Salvation is of course accomplished purely through the finished work of Christ and not at all by the works of man. Now, a true Christian man may indeed have a more unsavory flesh nature than a man who is unregenerate (a non-Christian), who has a relative “good” and pleasant flesh nature in comparison to most people. This man still falls short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and consequently he will die in his sin and suffer the eternal consequences, if he does not believe the Gospel (Rom 6: 23, John 3:18). However, if the Christian in this example does not make a habit of living in his new and sinless birth; the Spirit, as Paul calls it (Gal. 5:16), he will still come off as a rather unsavory fellow, whereas the non-Christian in this example will not. This is of course a reason why I believe that Paul admonishes the believers who he is addressing in his letter to the Galatians, in chapter 5, verse 16, to Walk in the Spirit that they may not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, which we all have tendencies toward, and give in to (particularly in our weaker moments), in varying degrees, ways, and durations.
We must remember that the old flesh natures of many of the men and women that we minister to in our jails (both saved and unsaved), which they are still carrying around with them (just as we all are), have probably over time donned a disproportionate amount of unhealthy and destructive (jail-worthy, if you will), learned behaviors (programming, if you will). Just as we all have the tenancy to turn to our own "customized" individual lust of the flesh at Spiritual low points, these people have the tendency to turn to their own "customized" lusts of the flesh at Spiritual low points; weak points. Remember, this is what they have been doing for a long time; it's familiar; it comes to them naturally, in a twisted sense it seems safe and comfortable to them, and they know how to do it. This is human nature and it is true of all of us; each of us having our own unique brand of it.
We must first see to it that the folks that we work with are saved; that they believe the Gospel. There is ZERO genuine discipleship without salvation/rebirth. When they are born again and have the Spirit to walk in, then and only then can we truly disciple them. There is no meaningful/genuine discipleship without the new birth. Discipleship is Spiritual growth. Just as one must be born physically before he/she can grow physically, one must be born Spiritually before one can grow Spiritually. I believe that this is a piece of biblical common sense that Satan has been tragically successful in getting many, including many high ranking and influential people in religious establishments, to overlook, and even reject.
We will have inmates who have put their trust in Christ; men and women who are going to Heaven, get rearrested and return to us. God will discipline them (Heb. 12:6). It will also be part of their growth process (Rom. 8:28). I would remind us all that the word “disciple” is a derivative of the word “discipline.” I would submit that we must not allow Satan to bog us down with despair in this regard, and strive to view these unfortunate events as subsequent chapters in the discipleship of these brothers and sisters, as we continue our part in ministering to them in the love of Christ. My $.02.