Freedom

Freedom – being able to do what you want to do.  Not being controlled by someone or something else.  Independence.  Not under restraint.

So many ways to be held down, held back, kept in place.

Harry Houdini, Stone walls and chains do not make a prison — for Houdini

And so we continue with the adventures of the Early Church:

Acts 16:16-34  (CEV)

Paul and Silas Are Put in Jail

16 One day on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl. She had a spirit in her that gave her the power to tell the future. By doing this she made a lot of money for her owners. 17 The girl followed Paul and the rest of us and kept yelling, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved.”

18 This went on for several days. Finally, Paul got so upset that he turned and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl alone!” At once the evil spirit left her.

19 When the girl’s owners realized that they had lost all chances for making more money, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them into court. 20 They told the officials, “These Jews are upsetting our city! 21 They are telling us to do things we Romans are not allowed to do.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack on Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes off the two men and ordered them to be beaten with a whip. 23 After they had been badly beaten, they were put in jail, and the jailer was told to guard them carefully. 24 The jailer did as he was told. He put them deep inside the jail and chained their feet to heavy blocks of wood.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened. 26 Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the jail to its foundations. The doors opened, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

27 When the jailer woke up and saw that the doors were open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! No one has escaped.”

29 The jailer asked for a torch and went into the jail. He was shaking all over as he knelt down in front of Paul and Silas. 30 After he had led them out of the jail, he asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone who lives in your home.”

32 Then Paul and Silas told him and everyone else in his house about the Lord. 33 While it was still night, the jailer took them to a place where he could wash their cuts and bruises. Then he and everyone in his home were baptized. 34 They were very glad that they had put their faith in God. After this, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his home and gave them something to eat.

Now things are starting to bite.  Now this Jesus stuff is starting to cost people money – and they don’t like that.  Those who have been using and abusing the girl to make money for themselves, are not happy that she has been released and made well.  They don’t want her to be free, they care only about their own profits, and so they get Paul and Silas thrown into prison.  How sad that they can see only their own ends, and not the welfare of the girl.

But for Paul and Silas, doing what Jesus commanded them is costing big time.  They bring God’s freedom, and for their troubles lose their own.

But God doesn’t leave it there.  An earthquake happens, the doors of the jail open and the chains of the prisoners fall from them.  They are free.  Yet in one further act of witness Paul and Silas choose not to escape, but to show the jailer their integrity, which in turn leads him to ask the questions about how he too can be saved.  Then not just he, but his whole family come to know and believe in God.

So many different ways of being held captive, God’s way of being free.

We all have different things that tie us and hold us back – some of our making, some the construct of those around us.  But the message of God is, we can be free.  We can be saved – from ourselves and from how others treat us.  God offers us life.  He brings freedom from restraint.

In the words of Carl Tuttle in the Song, I Give you all the Honour

You have broken chains that bound me,

You’ve set this captive free;

I will lift my voice to praise Your name

For all eternity.

or of Charles Wesley

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Thank you Lord

for saving me,

from the hold others have over me,

and from myself.

May I allow myself

to know the freedom you offer

and receive it

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