Free To Love

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.

The Conversion

“…for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.  Conversion is a process. It is the act of converting, often as a result of a revelation, a moment or event of sudden insight. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was a revelation of Christ. Paul’s process of conversion began with his study of the scripture and the law from a changed point of view made known through that revelation. Many of us experience moments or events of sudden insight that cause us to pause and change direction in our lives. However, I believe true conversion is not merely an external or physical change in direction. True conversion must also involve a change in how we think and what we believe because our thoughts guide our actions. As a Christian I have come to understand that what I believe is not based on human perception of who I am, but rather who God has called me to be. Conversion takes time. It took Paul three years of study and a lifetime of journeying. Thus, in reality, it’s a never-ending process. Throughout this journey we can’t be discouraged! We are not perfect. We make mistakes and sometimes make unhealthy decisions. God knows the heart of his own and he will never give up on us. So too, we must never give in to the mis-steps. I believe God is well pleased with us when we confess, repent and move on in Christ, because freedom through Christ is our reward. One of the most poignant movie scenes for me is from The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Morgan Freeman’s character is brought before the parole board for the last time. After 40 years of saying what he thought the parole board wanted to hear, ‘Ellis Boyd Redding’ finally reaches the manifestation of his own conversion; freedom in every sense of the word.

Revelation of Christ; Conversion; Freedom through ChristA Shawshank Redemption