You Absolutely Can Go to Jail

When I was practicing law, I would routinely meet new criminal defense clients for the first time and they would tell me about the situation they were in. With alarming regularity, somewhere in their account of the situation, some of them would inform me something like “I can’t go to jail for this.”

I would stop what we were doing and interrupt by telling them, “You absolutely can go to jail.” Obviously, I was trying to keep them out of jail but there is nothing worse than standing next to a client that is surprised by the reality of the deputy putting handcuffs on them. Even if they don’t go to jail, feeling the weight of the potential consequences is beneficial to them long-term to avoid the situations that caused them to have to come to court in the first place.

Consequences cause us to have to consider the actions that bought the result. Ideally, we learn from the consequences to avoid bigger mistakes and greater consequences. Consequences are our friend as they suggest we consider our will. Why did we do the thing that causes us the discomfort of the consequence? What should we do differently?

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4 NLT)

The love of God is particularly attractive compared to the consequences of our rebellion. It’s His kindness that calls to us for us to change our mind and turn away from the choices we make apart from Him. Kindness is only kind by contrast. If there are no consequences and everything is a soft landing, then kindness isn’t that big of a deal, is it?

Jesus invites us into His Kingdom; into His holiness. He is in the redemption business. He wants to exchange the depravity within us and replace it with His glory. He loves us and knew we had issues when He decided to die for us. He isn’t intimidated nor impressed by our sin.

The consequences we face aren’t from the anger of God; they are more like gravity. When we choose to walk outside of the way that He has made for us, we are open to the results of our rebellion. We aren’t very good at being our own small “g” gods, so when we try, there are problems. The big “G” God waits patiently in His kindness for us to come home from our prodigal ways to enjoy the benefits of the relationship He intends for us with Him.

How to Win Without Trying

After 51 years, I’m starting to get it. The fire that has burned is best used when restrained and tended in order to prevent unintended casualties even where the goal is achieved. When I am able to not take the bait and step into a fight that doesn’t have to be fought, the peace and position are far superior to the aftermath of a contentious outcome (even a victory).

Less is more, even when less is elusive. Maybe especially when less is elusive. When we can throttle back and allow for ourselves to be subject to the adverse interests of others in a manner which is non-inflammatory, we gain the superior position. In other words, when we will concede the superior place, we inherit it.

Jesus most often referred to Himself as “Son of Man.” He could have called Himself a number of things, including “Son of God” or “King of Kings,” but instead He chose “Son of Man.” He chose the lower position from which He would serve and not be served. The result was a legitimacy that was never really in question. It was a superiority which couldn’t have been threatened, anyway.

Trust is essential to this posture and trust is built through relational experience. The way to the lesser position is by reliance on a  Source greater than ourselves. It’s a trust that exceeds our personal ability and a willingness to allow for the outcomes that may contradict our desires.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

What has already been entrusted is the fuel for what convinces. Experience in trust breeds confidence in trust. What little has been offered is fuel for the potential of more.

In effect: I trust that God is able to take what I have trusted and make it more. I have been convinced and am being convinced. God has called to me and I have been persuaded; now He is continually persuading me as I continually trust step by step and grow in Him. We believe in part and then are convinced in that part to trust for the next part.

Being convinced allows for the security and peace that facilitates the apparently lesser position. It affords the freedom of knowing victory without having to try to win.

Overcoming Our Overwhelming Desire for Justice

In this era of instant access, we are flooded with stories of the shortcomings of others. The mistakes and misconduct of celebrities as well as the relatively anonymous are advertised on social media as well as the main line media. The depravity of people is almost celebrated.

To consider these stories a “celebration” of the mistakes of others may seem too drastic, but is it? Haven’t we become a society similar to the era of Roman citizens gathering in the coliseum to watch the death and manipulation of others?

Through it all, we have become a society of judges. We view the news, reality shows and internet communities with a lens that filters the information so that we can form immediate opinions on who is right and who is wrong. We decide based on the fraction of information we are given access to who is “right” and who is “wrong” in a given situation. Then, with this freshly formed judgment, we engage in online debate and justification of our position with increasing conviction and pride related to our conclusion.

Underneath it all, we are allowed multiple opportunities every hour to find somebody more screwed up than us, as far as we can tell. As a result, we can rest in our own junk as justified by comparison. The judgments we pass validate our own shortcomings and, as a result, we stall out in our own growth. We settle for less than we were created to be because at least we are not as bad as “them.”

Judgment is a difficult burden and one that should not be taken lightly. The decisions we make when residing in our position as judge over the lives of others either in the media or in our personal lives have consequences. Every time we choose justice over grace, we get to apply that same standard to how we view ourselves. We live with the burden of right and wrong and good and bad and strive to perform according to our version of the law.

Once the burdens are too heavy and we realize that we really just can’t do the deal ourselves, then and only then do we find room for grace. We cry out to be relieved of the burdens of performance. When we are shown grace in a personal and transformative way, we view the problems of others with increased restraint on our judgment. If that revelation of grace occurs at all is determined by the Source of grace in the first place. His name is Jesus.

Stay Connected or Wither Away

I’ve been involved with Quest since 2008. Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of lives impacted through the incredible encounter with the One true and living God that occurs during a Quest. Sometimes there is a person who experiences such an encounter only to later struggle and find themselves in a ditch. When I am involved with any individual whom has struggled like that, the first thing I’ll ask them is something along the lines of:

  • “Where are you connected?”
  • “Where are you going to church?”
  • “Who are you living life with?”

Every time, without exception, they aren’t connected, they aren’t a part of a local church and they aren’t living life in the manner we would encourage during and following the Quest experience. They are isolated. Every time.

In John 15:5-6, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

The first thing we should notice about this passage is that Jesus is addressing the branches, plural. There is an invitation to bear fruit in the context of other fruit bearers. While we are often tempted to read Scripture as entirely personal and individual, the context and promises are often corporate. Corporately, there can be much fruit; when we are connected together to Him.

Secondly, the reality is that without such corporate connection with unity in Jesus is that any individual branch is going to wither. Jesus isn’t going to wither and the rest of the branches (people) won’t wither, just the ones that aren’t connected. What happens without connection, by definition, is that the disconnected person dries up and wastes away.

We need to be connected to avoid the ditch. Unless we are comfortable with the withering which is assured, we have to be a part of a local church. House church, coffee shop church, small church, big church, denominational or non-denominational, find the place that you can connect and be a part of the fruit bearing. The connection will come with the challenges that come with relationship but the return on your commitment will be a life that is productive and part of the corporate display of Jesus through His bride, the church.

Living From the Inside

The truest opportunities we face in life are life-giving. That is, when we choose to step beyond what we currently know, our senses and purpose is activated. Once we see the possibilities of “there,” we are no longer comfortable with “here” but we are intrigued enough not to care anymore.

Nelson Mandela said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Our flaws can seemingly insulate us from any responsibility for the dreams which are within us. The fear of stepping past the hurdles of insecurities is contested by the greatness within our design. When we are aware of the potential, the compromises and excuses can no longer withhold the majesty of what we were created to be. By God’s grace, we can no longer resist that which we really were all along.

That’s one of the more intimidating things that goes along with a life of faith. What if our destiny awaits outside comfort and control of our current circumstances? What if the revelation of our greatness causes what we held as important to fade to insignificant?

That’s also one of the more attractive things that goes along with a life of faith. We are no longer bound by the visible and temporary once we come into agreement with the eternal. The illusion of control is exposed as the lie that it has always been. Letting go leaves our hands wide open to catch what was intended.

The adventure costs us everything. The first step is the scariest but the day that we quit taking steps into the unknown is the day that we exchange the call of our hearts for the cheap substitution of the American dream.

The transformation of your soul comes in the pursuit of your purpose. Your purpose was born from an eternal perspective by a God who cares more about you than He does what you think you can’t do. With agreement, the opportunity is to be different as you make a difference. He will take your insecurities and breath identity into them as you agree with Him in the eternal things.

Value of Consequences is Determined by Entitlement or Humility

I once watched an attorney represent a young U.S. Naval Officer in a DUI case. The officer was a Naval Academy graduate and the attorney conceded that the facts of the case supported a DUI conviction but that there was more at play. He brought in a former Naval Academy graduate to testify of the ramifications of such a conviction. That former officer testified that he was forced to pay back the value of his Naval Academy education as a result of a similar conviction.

The attorney argued that a $100,000 “fine” would be the practical result of this conviction and that such a “fine” exceeded the intent of the state legislature’s guidelines. The judge reduced the charge to reckless driving but sentenced the officer to several weekends in jail.

I asked the attorney how his client reacted to such a relatively favorable result and the attorney told me that he wasn’t happy about it. He said there was a sense of entitlement that left the officer dissatisfied with the fact that he have to go to jail for a number of weekends.

Similarly, I once represented a client for a felony that I was able to help get reduced to a misdemeanor but he had to go to jail for a couple of weekends. He wasn’t happy; he didn’t want to go to jail. Going to jail for two weekends with a misdemeanor vs. going to jail for months/years with a felony is a huge win. Yet, not a happy client.

Each of the defendants that I referenced was given a bit of a legal gift. The Naval Officer was afforded mercy to avoid a large bill to the government. The felony defendant benefited from a bit of legal maneuvering. In both cases, they did the thing they were convicted of but didn’t want to embrace the stark reality of some time in jail. They were above that, but they weren’t above the abhorrent behaviors that resulted in the scrutiny they were under.

When we are entitled and believe that our intentions supersede our behaviors and our beliefs justify our choices, we simply won’t grow. We’ll be stuck in our immaturity for as long as we aren’t willing to embrace the limitations of our soul. The limitations of our soul are reflected in our choices and our choices have consequences.

I wrote the other day about the value of my depravity. There is grace available where we will seek redemption. For as long as we embrace our “good-guy” status, we’ll miss the exchange. Consequences are graceful as they highlight the goodness of God and the opportunity for transformation if we will change our mind. Otherwise, it’s just a few weekends in jail and the embarrassment without the benefit to our soul.