As I drove to my friends’ house, I recall thin king aloud to my family that it was a most unusual part y we were to at tend. My friends, a wonderful couple, were celebrating the homecoming of their son, who had been paroled after seven long years in prison. While he was guilt y of the charges against him, the sentence he received was extraordinarily harsh when compared to the crimes of other inmates. No matter. He was home. And his exuberance for life energized everyone around him. The experience that so often hardens men and turns them bitter had refined and softened this young man. What emerged from the crucible of prison was a serenely repentant, mellow, and humbly grateful child of God.
He spoke freely of his experiences, beg inning with the moment the judge accepted the jury ’s verdict and slammed the gavel down. As everyone else gathered their belongings and headed for the parking lot, he was led through a side door and placed inside a cage. Next, he was stripped, searched, photographed, printed, shack led, and then put aboard a tan prison bus. For the next seven years, he bore the title “convict,” and for rest of his life, he will be called “ex-con” or “felon.”
A s I reflect on this young man’s experience, I must ask myself, “How are he and I different ? ” There are several differences. His record of wrongdoing is a matter of public record; mine is locked away in heaven. He suffered punishment most can scarcely imagine; I will not endure a single moment of retribution for my wrongs. The world w ill forever count him the least among its citizens; I am unjustly celebrated. “Where then is boasting? It is excluded” (3:27)! For the felon and I are more alike than different. My heart is no less depraved than his . . . or yours. Earthly courts saw fit to place him behind bars, but you and I are no less guilty before our almighty Judge. Truth be told, you and I deserve far worse.
Therefore, if we dare boast in the presence of my paroled friend, let u s boast with him. Let us join him in bragging about Jesus Christ and His inexplicable gif t of g race. Let us see ourselves as his equals, paroled felons enjoying undeserved freedom. For “where then is boasting?” Not with us. Not in our goodness. And may I remind you once again? Salvation is a gift, and this gift demonstrates the goodness of the Giver, not of those who receive it.
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:22-24
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About Charles Swindoll
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the clear, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. He currently pastors Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and serves as the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. His renowned Insight for Living radio program airs around the world. Chuck and Cynthia, his partner in life and ministry, have four grown children and ten grandchildren.