One day, a prison warden was walking the corridors of his penitentiary. As he passed each cell block, the occupants inside boldly declared their innocence and demanded to be released.
Row after row, cell after cell, "I am innocent," they all shouted.
At last, the warden came upon an inmate who was curled up on his bed, weeping. When the warden inquired as to what was wrong, the man confessed his crimes and blurted his sins. Through tears of grief, the prisoner expressed his anguish and sorrow for his countless offenses.
"Are you telling me that you are truly guilty of the crimes for which you have been convicted?" asked the warden.
"Yes, sir, I am," the man sobbed.
Immediately, the warden initiated the man's release, declaring, "I don't want him here corrupting all these innocent men."
Though I believe it is simply a modern-day parable and nothing more, I remember hearing this story many years ago. It stayed with me ever since.
(I have written it as best as my recollection has allowed).
You have probably followed the news headlines, as I have recently, of two teens who were convicted of sharing a particularly disturbing crime that involved several crude offenses.
Both were tried in an Ohio court.
Both were found to be guilty.
Both were sent to prison.
Our ears heard the verdict, and our eyes beheld the reactions to it.
One of the young men lashed out, defiantly spewing vulgarities and displaying obscene gestures.
The other bowed his head and wept.
Obviously, we don't know if he wept because he was truly remorseful for what he had done, or if he simply regretted getting caught; only he and God knows that.
Regardless, the responses of each of these offenders were greatly contrasting to one another. Because of that, two biblical accounts quickly entered my mind.
First, consider the two thieves who were crucified next to Jesus.
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us."
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
"And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."
The he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."
And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
(Luke 23:39-43 NKJV)
Having served for seven years in jail ministry, I have oftentimes encountered criminals like unto these. One is hardened and belligerent (and this type usually represented the majority).
However, the other is remorsefully repented and has called on Jesus for mercy and forgiveness.
While this might all create an interesting story, none of it relates to us, right?
Or, does it?
We may not have broken any laws of the land or committed any crimes, but what about those of us who are assessed to be religious?
Next, consider this parable of Jesus:
"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'
"And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'
"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Where do we stand with honesty concerning the terms and definitions of our own sins? What is the rendered verdict?
Are we guilty?
Are we innocent?
Do we consider ourselves righteous, or are we repentant unto salvation?
Being truly sorry for our sins is a sorrow that leads to gladness and life eternal.
Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
(II Corinthians 7:9, 10 NKJV)
(This article was published in Pathway Christian Newspaper May, 2013)