Busting out of prison in Jesus’ name

Earth, 2020.  It seems to me that the human race has been put into a prison of sorts.  Of course, I am speaking of the current pandemic that has changed life as we know it for the last six months and counting.

I see the first season of this change as coming to an end.  We have been informed, shocked, and shaken.  From that we have sobered up (some of us), innovated, and adapted.  Now we are entering another season or phase – and how we react presently will have a powerful impact on what our lives look like a year from now, and beyond.  This applies to society as a whole, to each of us as individuals, and to our faith and church experience.

Scripture gives us such a prison story that I believe serves as a poignant parable to our current situation.

In Acts 16 we find two followers of Jesus – Paul and Silas – imprisoned for their faith.  They were going about preaching when, perhaps unexpectedly, a crowd rose up, called the authorities, and had them arrested.  They were then beaten and locked in prison.

Normal life, as they knew it, had ceased.  Whatever they had to do the next day was put on hold.  Something intervened and it disrupted everything.  They were put in a prison; they lost control and were now subject to a new set of rules.

Perhaps you and I can relate.  We have not been abused and put in shackles as such but in a very real sense we have been shackled to a new way of life.  While some of that new way of life is inescapable, just as Paul and Silas did, I believe we have the choice whether to accept the new prison around us or continue to be the people God would have us be.

I imagine many prisoners give in to their new circumstance and simply live day in and day out now defined not as people but as prisoners.  Again, part of that is normal and unavoidable.  But as people who follow Jesus we must ask ourselves whether or not that calling, and the lifestyle that results from that calling, is to be abandoned as we accept our new fate.

Paul and Silas thought otherwise.  Their feet in stocks, surrounded by what was likely a group of people very deserving of being in jail, they continued doing the things that Christians do.  At an hour you wouldn’t expect them to, a couple bruised and beaten followers of Jesus sang hymns of praise to God.  The result?  Earthquake!  Signs and wonders!  The gospel preached!  New disciples of Jesus!

So rather than give in to their new fate, they adapted and kept on doing the things that lovers of Jesus do.  They sang.  They preached.  They saw miracles.  Rather than being changed by the prison around them, they reached into heaven and changed the prison instead!

What about us?  Certainly we can relate to this.  We are, as I said earlier, in a prison of sorts.  We are stuck in our homes, ordering things online by the dozen, anticipating the UPS or mail truck like never before.  Our jobs have changed.  Our cars have perhaps been driven less miles.  We haven’t seen our friends in too long.  Maybe attending church services or functions is only a nostalgic memory.

The reality is that things will not go back to normal anytime soon.  So, we must choose:  Will we stay in the proverbial prison and accept, and perhaps propagate, the sedentary life and faith that quarantine dictates?  Or – in a leap of courage and faith – will we innovate, adapt, and find new ways to do old things?

For a person of faith, this could mean many things.  Brave the summer heat and meet outside with friends.  Put on a facemask, push yourself out, and attend an indoor church service.  Sing.  Expect miracles.  Share your faith.

The way forward is going to be different.  Simply, if we want to see our faith lived out, we must take this new land.  Rather than letting it serve as a prison that shackles us, may we take courage and do the stuff we did before, even if differently.  I believe that by doing so, even if in new and sometimes strange ways, we will see a move of God come upon our world as never before.

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