For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13, NET)
Recidivism is the repeated or habitual relapse into something, such as a life of crime. It is the tendency of some who, after being set free from the crime for which they were imprisoned, return to their criminal behavior. The word recidivism comes from the Latin word recidivus, which means “falling back.” A study done in 2005 showed that in the United States, the recidivism rate for released prisoners was 76.8% within five years of their release from prison, with 56.7% being rearrested by the end of the first year after their release. These repeat offenders are living in bondage to their criminal tendencies, using their freedom to go out and do the things that put them in prison to begin with.
At 20 years old, Eugene Brown had been living a life of crime that culminated in his being arrested for bank robbery, for which he was imprisoned. After serving 18 years of his life in prison, Brown was released. Statistics were very much in favor of someone like Brown falling back into a life of crime, but Brown made a choice not to squander his newfound freedom. Brown had a love of the game of chess and he used that love of chess to turn his life around. In 2002, he started a non-profit organization called the Big Chair Chess Club. The goal of this organization is to help at-risk urban youth avoid the pitfalls that they face in life by developing an interest in chess. Rather than using his freedom to indulge in crime, Brown used it, with love, to help and to serve others.
When it comes to the desires of the flesh, to our sinful nature, all of us have been in bondage. Sin has held us captive, has made us prisoners. But Jesus Christ came to set us free from that sin. He died for our sins so that we would have freedom from the penalty of our sins. In Galatians 5:1, Paul spoke of the danger of falling back into slavery and told us that, since Christ had set us free, we must stand firm and not allow ourselves to become subject to sin’s yoke of slavery. We have been called to be free. But as Paul warned in Galatians 5:13, we must not use our freedom as an opportunity to indulge our sinful nature. We must treasure that freedom while avoiding the pitfalls of sin. We must use our freedom to serve one another in love. Our freedom should be used to live lives that are defined by helping others to find that same freedom.
(NOTE: You can learn more about Eugene Brown’s story in the 2013 movie, Life of a King, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr.)
Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from The NET Bible® Copyright © 2005 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. www.bible.org All rights reserved.