Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Prisoner for the Lord

Ephesians 4:1
As a prisoner for the Lord, then,
I urge you to live a life worthy of
the calling you have received.

     For years, my husband and I sang in a Southern Gospel quartet. Several times a year we were allowed the privilege of ministering in a men’s maximum security prison.

     One of my most memorable visits includes the evening an armed guard entered the chapel, locked the door, and spoke to the chaplain. The men quickly lined up at the chapel door and the guard escorted them to their rooms (cells).

     Before getting in line, Michael, an always present worshipper, approached me. I will never forget his words.  “Don’t be afraid, Miss Joyce. Every man in here would lay down his life and die before he would let something happen to any of you!”  Wow! No one had ever said that to me before.

     As the men filed out, the chaplain explained that it appeared as though an escape was in progress, and we could be in for a prolonged prison stay—no one in or out for at least seventy-two hours. I thought about Michael’s words and how our relentless visits and obvious love for these men had transformed our relationship from singer/audience to an unusual friendship. They actually loved us enough to lay down their lives to save ours. Prisoners on the outside, on the inside many were held captive only by the love of Christ.

     While waiting and hoping the men would be allowed to return to the chapel, I thought about Christ and how he laid down his life in love for me. I wondered if I, like the Apostle Paul, could call myself a prisoner for the Lord. I wanted my life to matter, and I wondered if people could really see Jesus in me. When they looked at me, did they see love and compassion or judgment and indignation?    

     I suppose the prospect of a seventy-two hour incarceration in a maximum security prison started me thinking, and that pivotal experience began a change in me—a change that continues.

     While we may not be locked inside prison walls, we often build our own walls and hold ourselves captive to sin, to hurts, to disappointments in life. But there is a way to break out, escape and achieve freedom. Ephesians 4:1 says it all, “As a prisoner for the Lord…”

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