Two prisoners looked out of their prison cell. One looked to the skies and counted the stars the other counted the prison bars.
You can be imprisoned and yet feel freedom and optimism. This is exactly the experience of St. Paul while in prison. Though bound in chains and heavily guarded by soldiers, his lips never ceased proclaiming his freedom in Christ. To his visitors he dictated letters of hope. Even the prison guards who changed shifts automatically noticed his unflinching Faith, Courage and Conviction in Christ.
Saint Paul made his prison cell his pulpit. He writes “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear (Philippians 1:12-14). In this short letter to the Philippians the words ‘joy’ and ‘rejoice’ are used at least 16 times.
Our prison cells could be many. We may feel imprisoned by hurtful, abusive relationships or betrayals, loneliness or neglect by loved ones, sickness or uncertainty about the future, fear or doubt of many kinds, financial constraints and even low self-confidence. Some of these experiences even stretch people to contemplate suicide.
It is from these kinds of bondages that Jesus promises to set us free. Jesus promises “ I have come that you may have life, and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). To experience true freedom you must experience this fullness and the joy of life, even amidst trials and tribulations.
Jesus also speaks of Spiritual Freedom. He plainly reminds us that if we continue in sin, we in effect lose our freedom or the experience of ‘abundance of life’ and end up becoming a slave to sin. To the Jews who came to believe in Him, Jesus said “If you continue in my Word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).
Freedom for a Christian does not entail the Right to do as one pleases but only what is pleasing in the sight of God. You know what pleases God when you know and follow the Supreme Law; love of God and love of Neighbor. When we do this, we experience a Freedom that no polity, no nation and no constitution can ever give us.
Peoples across the world discuss, fight for and celebrate freedom, but a Christian can be a slave even in a free country if he or she does not abide in Christ and abide in His Word.
Experience the splendid of Christian Freedom; seek Christ in all earnestness.
Fr. Adolf Washington