Cells in the new jail in Jefferson City, MO were filled last weekend, but by Monday morning they were empty. A massive jailbreak? No, each inmate was happily released after serving their 24-hour “sentence”. And none walked away with a blemish on their criminal record!
Cole County was about to open their brand-new jail and wanted to conduct a test run. Citizens were offered the chance, for a $30 fee, to experience a night behind bars. 170 paid their fee and left all of their personal belongings at the front desk. Though none of the cell doors were actually locked, all other aspects of jail life were reproduced. It was a sobering experience for those who participated, though each was given a mug shot and a T-shirt as a token of their time served.
Few who spend time in lockup facilities leave with a smile. For most of the nearly 2.3 million who were incarcerated at the end of 2009, jail is a humbling ordeal, filled with shame, guilt and fear of further action to come. Some enter prison with no expectation of ever leaving. Theirs is a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.
Medicine has made “inoculation” a familiar concept. A vaccine or a serum is injected into our bodies, and that injection leads to a small-scale invasion. But in the process our bodies develop antibodies to fight the infection, and the memory of that battle will remain in our systems. Most of us welcome this small health battle, considering it a good investment if it means success over a larger enemy in the future.
Those who paid to spend a night in jail in Missouri last week were “inoculating” themselves against any desire to step outside of the law’s boundaries. By having this no-risk experience of life in jail, they strengthened their resolve to be law-abiding citizens.
The Bible has much to say about the concept of sin. Is there anything good to be said about sin? If there is, it might be this: A taste of sin should awaken us to the fearful prospect of an eternity without God.
Paul, in Romans 8, mused on his own experience of sin. “Has then that which is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful” (Romans 8:13). If Paul had not seen that sin was “exceedingly sinful” and capable of producing death, he might have clung to it for the rest of his life. But the taste of sin led Paul to abandon it completely.
To see the full effect of sin, look at Jesus on the cross. The descriptions in the Gospels of Jesus’ crucifixion are anything but pleasant; we often recoil as we read and meditate on the details. But we need to know that “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). Sin is not something to play with, for it destroys people!
Each Lord’s Day, as I “taste” this experience of sin’s effects on my innocent Lord (in the Lord’s Supper), I should reaffirm my desire to have nothing at all to do with sin, but to walk in the pathway of righteousness. The cross of Christ is an uncomfortable meditation – but I need it.
Timothy D. Hall.