Legalism, The Comfort of

Legalism, The Comfort of

by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (Oct. 12, 1993)

The Security of a Cell

The New York Times carried the incredible story under this headline: " A Confession to Murder To Get Back in Prison" (Sept. 17, 1993, p. B11).

It is the true story of a 47-year-old man who has spent a considerable part of his life to this point behind bars. Out of prison for ten months, he couldnít cope with the outside world and its daily responsibilities of autonomy, choice, and freedom. "I can not longer live on the outside, " Rudolfo Martin Rodriguez told police in San Antonio, Texas. "I want to go back to jail."

Understand the Mr. Rodriguez didnít confess under pressure. It wasnít that the police were closing in on him, so he turned himself in to work out a plea bargain. "These cases can reach a dead end pretty quickly, " a San Antonio homicide detective said. "I would say the case would not ever have been solved if he hadnít come in to give us a confession." The murder was committed on October 9, 1977, and the case was essentially closed.

Crazy, huh? Not at all! Lots of people do the same thing with their lives every day. It isnít that we like jail so much. Itís that most people will choose security over freedom, if they canít have both.

Remember the complaint of the Israelites as they stood with Moses on the edge of the Red Sea? They wished they were back in slavery. They scolded Moses for what he had started. "What have you done to us by bringing us up out of Egypt? Didnít we say to you in Egypt, ĎLeave us alone; let us serve the Egyptiansí? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Ex. 14:11-12).

The same spirit explains why some people in Russia want to go back to a totalitarian system of government. "At least we had jobs and bread then!" they cry. It is why Communism still has control of mainland China. It is why so many petty dictators can retain power in Central and South America. And it is why so many people are content to embrace counterfeit forms of Christian faith.

You can let someone else think for you, tell you what you must believe and do, and identify those you can hear or read. Doctrine detectives are a dime a dozen, and heretic hunters draw their guns and blaze away at the very appearance of a serious question.

Anyone who has ever lived within such a system knows there is a certain comfort in conforming. Just think, look, and act like everyone else. The reward is endorsement.

But the security of mindless compliance comes at too high a price. A cell is no place for someone who has been set free by Jesus Christ.

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