By: Jana Greene
“Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.” –
James 2:12-13 (Message)
I’ve heard it said that Christianity is only just “one beggar telling another beggar where to find food”, and I believe there is a lot of truth in that analogy. But if that is so, I believe it is also “one freed prisoner showing another prisoner who can make him free”.
Currently, there seems to be a spate of television shows about prison life. Filmed in actual penitentiaries, TV crews camp out in the common areas and just outside of the cells. They then report on the conditions of the facility, and go in-depth with those serving time. What must the mindset be to survive captivity? There are much-needed layers of security, no doorknobs to turn here, and no gates that unlock from within.
From a human interest standpoint, it is fascinating. Although there are those inmates who use the time to better themselves and the world, many are hopeless. Hardened by life, they seem to feel justified for whatever crime they have committed, and express no interest in the world outside. The lifers are the ones whose fates are often summed up with this phrase: “No hope for parole”; and while I’ve never understood the logic of serving multiple life sentences, it must be unbearable to carry.
Once while watching an episode of “Lockup”, I wondered… what if somebody with a lot of clout opened the door for these prisoners, intentionally and literally– and pardoned all of their debt to society on the spot. Granted, it would have to be someone very, very powerful to pull off such a feat. Citizens would no doubt be angry – the time must be served for the sake of justice! – But I wonder….would many of them even walk through? Fully pardoned, would they accept freedom and face new uncertainties, or stay behind the walls in distrust of the One who bought them liberty?
We believers sometimes remain captives all of our own accord, shuffling through this life with the world shackled around our ankles. Each of us have our own issues, our own ball-and-chain – heavy and awkward to carry about. I often haul my burdens around fully voluntarily, knowing the gate is wide open. It is sometimes a constant struggle for me to slip out of certain shackles – resentment, unforgiveness, anger – because sometimes I feel justified in having them around. Thankfully, my debt has already been paid. To me, at least, this Living Free isn’t something you escape into only when you accept Christ, but that you intentionally do on the daily. Claim life as a freed captive, and not only live free, but introduce other prisoners to The Only One who has the power to grant a full pardon. It’s not only our obligation as Christians…it is our great privilege.
“Father God, help us to live free from the power of sin, free from addiction, and free from a mindset that keeps me from your good plans for my life. Give me the discernment to see and help others struggling and hurting, and let me live a life in this freedom that glorifies YOU! In Jesus’ Holy name. Amen”