One of the many stories in the Bible that intrigues me occurs in the Book of Acts. Paul and Silas are arrested at Phillipi and after being beaten are placed in stocks in the inner jail. In the middle of the night, while singing and praying an earthquake causes all the cell doors to open and all the prisoner chains to fall off. Truly a work of God. The head jailer, fearing that he will be killed decides to commit suicide, but Paul cries out to him saying not to harm himself for all the prisoners are still there. This single event convinces the jailer of the power and mercy of Christ and he asks what he needs to do to be saved right then. The jailer takes Paul and Silas to his house, where he and his household are baptized and saved!
Its an amazing story in and of itself, but what strikes me is the symbolic nature of the story. The chief incarcerator is himself incarcerated! Here are Paul and Silas physically incarcerated but spiritually liberated and their jailer who believes he is free but, as it turns out, is spiritually in a prison. Moreover, at the very moment their freedom is possible Paul and Silas reach out to their incarcerator and this single act convinces him what they have been testifying to is truth. In each case, the message is clear: those who walk in Christ are free and have the ability to free others!
What’s intriguing is how many of us are incarcerated without realizing it. The more I reflect on my own life the more I see that at different times, even if I felt at the time that I was in control or doing well, I was in fact incarcerated. What has incarcerated you? A job, success, a bad relationship, fear, fame, family, friends, a narrow mindset–this is just a shortlist of possible jailers. It’s even possible that these jailers felt like important pluses in your life, but looking back were actually keeping you from being free. Perhaps you are still jailed by them today.
The good news is that Paul’s story is as applicable to our lives today as it was nearly two thousand years ago. If we want to be physically free, we need to be spiritually free. Accepting Christ in our lives and allowing Christ to guide us begins the process. It’s amazing how the more we pray and reach out to God, the more is revealed to us about the lives we are living. Secondly, spiritual liberation in Christ then gives us the confidence to confront our physical incarcerators. Sometimes, as we discussed above, that is a circumstance, other times it is an individual or group of individuals, many times the jailer is ourself! (Whew, there is a whole other post right here!)
Regardless of the source, Christ can free us! Let’s not spend another minute in spiritual captivity. By accepting Christ fully and identifying our incarcerators, Christ will free us to fulfill God’s purpose for us, including freeing others. Paul knew he was free, even in chains. Let’s join him!