Living and Loving on Borrowed Belief & Time
Sunday, January 16
“I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14)
Paul gets arrested while fighting for his civil rights and persists until released. In Philippi, he won a round with the court system by converting the jailer. In Jerusalem he appeals to his civil rights, but let’s call this round a draw. When Judah’s governor, Festus, attempts to clear his courtroom calendar, he recommends that Paul’s case be transferred to the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. Paul jumps the gun in a pre-trial hearing and says, “I appeal to the emperor’s tribunal” (Acts 25:10). These words, “I appeal to the Emperor” sealed his fate. Why Paul dared to put any faith in the Roman judicial system puzzles me! Jesus died by Roman capital punishment. Roman law enforcement agents tortured Jesus. Jesus stood trial in a Roman courtroom. A Roman governor condemned Jesus. Paul knew very well the facts of Jesus’ conviction and execution. Yet, Paul puts his faith in Rome? Enjoy reading the letter to the church in Philippi, but don’t forget that this is a prison letter: A prison letter that he writes to the Church, in the city where his first arrest took place. More interesting than this letter is Paul’s feisty nature! Why Paul placed any faith in the secular court system, I do not know. But Paul gambled on Roman legal justice and lost.
Write about some tradition, institution, or person who you put your trust in (gave your heart or your life to) that let you down.
In a “free” society, what holds you captive so that you dare not speak the word with boldness and without fear? How does perfect love cast out all fear?
Jesus, for our sake you were condemned as a criminal: visit our jails and prisons with your pity and judgment. When any are held unjustly bring them to release. And since what we do for those in prison, we do for you, constrain us to improve their lot: give us courage to speak. Amen.
Revisit selections from Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.