Acts 16:25-40 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
While in South Africa I met a man who had been a guard at Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years. While he was there he had gotten to know President Mandela and it was because of this relationship that the guard realized that he too was a prisoner of the apartheid system. Being an uneducated man, prison security was the only job he could get. He realized that this political prisoner wanted the same things and valued the same ideals for his country that he wanted for himself and his family. But, It was only in prison that he was even allowed to have any kind of relationship with a person of African descent. Outside of prison, the guard couldn’t risk defying the system because he had a family to feed. Some time after Mandela was released from prison the guard had an opportunity to meet with Mandela, and to his surprise remembered him with no disdain or bitterness and greeted him with a hug.
It was clear to Paul that when the prison doors opened and the chains were unfastened, Paul didn’t need to escape because he was already free. The jailer, on the other hand, was captive to a system that would have accepted his suicide as retribution for something of which he had no control. Paul being a Roman citizen knew this as well. Both Mandela’s and Paul’s actions helps us to understand that to be a prisoner of Christ is to be free to love.