Pastor Ralph J. Mineo, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
Nelson Mandela was in prison in South Africa for 27 years. Released in 1990, he, remarkably, became President of South Africa in 1994. Of his release from prison, he said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
There are certainly many kinds of prisons, buildings which remove our freedom, but also the prisons of the mind which keep us down and mentally chained. Because of our sin, there are prisons which keep us disconnected from people, and from God. I’ve never been incarcerated in a physical prison, though I’ve visited prisoners. I HAVE been imprisoned by some of my ridiculous thoughts, and by my sin.
The people of Israel had been in slavery (prison!) in Egypt. God called Moses to assure that the people be released from the chains of bondage. Moses climbed a mountain and returned with the 10 Commandments. These laws were not given to put the people into a new prison! No! They were given to identify the people as “people of God,” as a way to live freely.
Eugene Peterson (author of “The Message” translation of the Bible) wrote of the 10 Commandments: “Human life is honored. The
reality and truth of God is protected. Close, personal relationships are preserved. Truth is respected. Each of the commandments articulates and protects a reality without which the free life is not possible.”
God certainly didn’t create people to live in prisons or be slaves! Because the human race never got it, God sent Christ Jesus to us, to set us free, once and for all.
Following Jesus Christ, being a disciple (a follower and a learner), is an invitation to all to live in true freedom. Disciples don’t judge others. Disciples invite people into a connection with Christ Jesus. Rather than complaining about the way “other people” might be living, disciples demonstrate true freedom by the way they live.
In Christ, disciples are FREE, and it shows! Disciples aren’t slaves to sin! Even when there’s hardship and misery, suffering and pain, grief and sadness, disciples are free in Christ!
St. Paul said (in his letter to the Galatians): “Let the Spirit direct your lives.” So we enjoy a daily relationship with God. We pray daily. We seek and give forgiveness. We let the Spirit guide us. We let the Spirit put the love of God into us!
In Christ, we leave our bitterness and our hatreds behind. We let the Spirit keep us free. We let the Spirit keep us connected and free in Christ.