Do You Think Like a Criminal?

I recently attended a mandatory training for prison ministry in the State of Florida. It’s an annual requirement for all volunteers. It’s a rather routine session reviewing the rules for those entering a prison compound. We definitely went over the rules and there are many of them! The rules are for the safety of the volunteers as well as the staff and inmates. And as often happens, I found something that has application in our Christian walk.

I learned a new phrase. Criminogenic thinking. It means exactly what it sounds like. Thinking like a criminal. We could get into a detailed discussion about what that means, and how they measure it. There are studies done to evaluate how much a person thinks like a criminal and the likelihood of them actually committing a crime.

After the meeting, I began thinking about what the presenter had said. She summed up the concept like this:

“Criminogenic thinking means going around the rules to get what you want.”

How many of us are guilty of bending the rules from time to time? Of justifying our actions as “not that bad’, or” not hurting anyone.”

I did a little research on my own and found some additional ways that criminals think. And after studying these a bit, I came up with some Christian behaviors that sound pretty similar.

Closed Channel Thinking – “Good at pointing out the faults of others.” This is what we call judging!

Victimstance – “Blaming others for our circumstances.” How about “my church isn’t feeding me so I’m not growing.”

Views self as a good person – “When we refuse to acknowledge our own faults.” Or, refuse to acknowledge our own SIN. “At least we don’t do (fill in the blank).”

Lack of effort – “Unwilling to do anything they find boring or disagreeable.” This is the avoidance of suffering and a lack of obedience.

So I ask you, do you think like a criminal? Perhaps you find this offensive. Perhaps it’s uncomfortable seeing yourself in that light. But look at it from God’s perspective. We all have sinned. We all think like sinners. The criminal justice system didn’t come up with these defining behaviors on their own. Their list is based on moral principles that, whether they admit it or not, came from God’s standards.

Just as those working in corrections try to retrain the thought patterns of offenders to keep them from being repeat-offenders, God gave us His Word to retrain the thought patterns of sinners (us) so we would not repeat our sinful behavior. His “rules” are for our good. We must allow God’s Word to change the way we think. We need to stop going around the rules, thinking they apply to others but not to us. Scripture is full of encouragement that will transform us if we allow it.

Here are a few verses to get you started.

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 (ESV)

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”– Romans 8:6 (ESV)