Paul the Prisoner - Or Why Incarceration Is Not Always A Bad Thing ~ BitterSweetLife

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Paul the Prisoner - Or Why Incarceration Is Not Always A Bad Thing

Seven times in his letters to various churches, the first-century Christian theologian, Paul, describes himself as a “prisoner of Christ Jesus.” True, Paul spent considerable time behind bars, incarcerated for his Christianity. But his self-characterization had a more-than-physical basis.

Paul was a captive both in his cell and in his heart. But if the Roman shackles were a trial to be endured, the inner captivity was a miracle to be savored. Paul would have agreed with the poetic assessment of Francis Thompson who described his flight from the “Hound of Heaven,” an escape which was providentially doomed even as it started.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter…

After a spiritually sightless odyssey like the one Paul had known, to be cornered by God at last was a great relief—like sight to a blind man.
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." (Acts 9:3-6 ESV)

Paul's encounter with Christ was incredibly dramatic, but unlike many modern cases, the effects didn't fade after a few long weekends. Instead, they intensified. Paul followed Christ through various prisons to an eventual martyr's death. There was no escape from Jesus, nor was there any desire to do so. Paul was not one of those people who complain bitterly over the perceived threat of being dragged by God, kicking and screaming, into heaven.

It would be more than accurate to say that Paul relished his “prisoner” status—not so much as a tattoo reflecting the fact that he was keeping it real as a source of vitality that overflowed from his spiritual “prison” to transform his various physical ones.

After Christ secured his heart, Paul was willing to endure any manner of antagonism. Being chained, ultimately, to the beauty and glory of Christ, demonstrated the transience of iron manacles.

For Paul, "prisoner" was a beautiful double entendre. No wonder he said it so often.

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e-Mom said...

Wow! A beatiful piece of writing. And so true. Thank you.

Ariel said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, e-mom! Paul is an inspiration, no doubt. One thing I love about his writing is the incredible transparency. With Paul, you are never wondering for long how he "accomplished" what he did - every second word is about Christ's work of grace.


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