Freedom in the Midst of Bondage

mamertine-marty.jpgFrom this prison in Rome, Paul proclaimed a freedom of spirit that was unfettered. By contrast, we who are free as birds, often lead lives of confinement and restriction. What was Paul’s secret? He never whined about his condition, even under the reign of Nero, not even when facing death. He never played the “victim.” The last letter he wrote (2 Timothy) originated in this Mamertine Prison and is full of encouragement and wisdom from an old man who had suffered a lot. (my friend J. Marty is 6’6” tall)

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:8-12)

Paul was not a mere idealist. He felt real discomfort, like the cold and damp cell. No wonder he asked Timothy to bring his cloak to him.

Do your best to come to me soon . . . When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:9, 13)

He was a “slave to Christ” . The things he held tightly, we often push to the side of our plates. He made central those things that we often make peripheral. And the values that we tend to build our lives around, he counted but rubbish. Peter, who also spent time in this Mamertine Prison explained it this way:

They (false prophets and teachers) promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him (2 Peter 2:9)

How do we imprison ourselves? Ironically, many of the things we seek to master lay hold of us and become our master. Take, for example, financial bondage. Some people buy things beyond their means become slaves their creditors. Others make a lot of money but become enslaved to the very process that produces the money. And it’s never enough. Still others live in bondage to their image, “looking good” above all else, seemingly imperturbable yet highly vulnerable to trends and evaluations of others. Still others live in bondage to their need for accomplishments, valuing themselves for what they do rather than who they are or whom they serve. And the big one — the bondage of our fears. We cling to that which is familiar, fearing change, no matter how it might hold us back.
Now comes the hard part: What has mastered me? What am I in bondage to? What changes do I need to make that would result in more true freedom of spirit? Do those things I cling to set me free or hold me in bondage?
I’m encouraged by the exhortation that Paul sent to the Ephesian Christians during his first prison term in Rome, probably in a rented house:

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

mamertine-michi.jpg

My wife, who is 5′ 4″ and has a little more head room than J. Marty, was touched in her heart at the thought of Paul writing his letter to Timothy on this, the only ledge in the cell.

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2 Responses to Freedom in the Midst of Bondage

  1. bjmmckee says:

    Remembering Paul’s experience(s) always reminds me of my ungratefulness, even as I struggle not to be! It’s easy to understand that Sonia’s heart would be touched so by being ‘connected’ to Paul by being in this place.

    Blessings!
    Bonnie

  2. JUNE CRAFT says:

    I like the style you took with this article. It isn’t typical that you simply find something so to the point and enlightening.

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