On Volunteering for Prison

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November 23, 2017

Colossians 4:10-11

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 

CONSIDER THIS

It’s one thing to be locked up in prison against your will. It’s quite another to volunteer. That’s the story of Aristarchus. There are friends and then there are friends. Aristarchus wasn’t some cool freedom fighter Paul met and befriended in prison. We have it on good evidence that Aristarchus and Epaphras alternated shifts of imprisonment back and forth between them so they could be alongside Paul to help support and care for his needs.

It’s one thing to visit people who are in prison; and a good thing. It is love at level of pure Jesus to become a prisoner in order to serve the imprisoned. Aristarchus and Epaphras checked their freedom at the door, fully entering into the vile, intolerable conditions of a Roman prison for the sake of the love of God. They became the prisoners of holy love.

Can I be honest about something? I’ve never done this. I’ve never done anything remotely close to this. Aristarchus and Epaphras challenge me to the core of my being. It challenges me to think about those people in my life who are in some kind of inescapable confinement of some sort. I find it easy to steer clear of situations that I can’t somehow solve, choosing to spend my helpful energies in those scenarios where “a little help from my friends” will do the trick. I think Jesus wants me to be more involved with more unsolvable problems, in places where I have nothing to offer but his love through my 100% “with-them-ness.” Isn’t this exactly what Jesus has done with us?

I have disclosed to you before the nature of the trials I have faced in recent years and continue to face in my personal life. As I reflect on it, I have known Aristarchus and Epaphras through what continues to be the hardest season I have ever faced. Far beyond paying me a friendly visit, they have entered into my imprisonment with me. They have attended to my needs. As I think about it, they have effectively shackled themselves to me in a very “come what may” way. I can’t, in words, express to you what that has meant. To say I am thankful does not begin to touch the levels of my gratitude.

It makes me want to become more of an Aristarchus and Epaphras in the lives of other people; people whose problem I can’t solve and yet people who have needs for help and encouragement and the love of Jesus with skin on.

You too?

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who entered and enters our world and our lives so fully that he will never leave us. Come Holy Spirit and teach me this way of the Cross, that resurrection only comes to those who willingly lay down their lives for others. Though so much in me resists, I want the mind of Christ. We pray in Jesus name, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Have you encountered modern day Aristarchus and Epaphras types in your life? What was that like?
  2. Have you been an Aristarchus and Epaphras type in the lives of others? What was that like?
  3. How are you challenged when it comes to entering into situations and challenges you can’t solve or fix? What does the love of Jesus challenge you to do in those scenarios?

P.S. I want to express my gratitude to you, the readers of the Daily Text. This has been an extraordinary thing in my life and so much so because of your receptivity not just to read but to respond. I have a feeling when it’s all said and done that this will have been the signal work of my life and ministry. It would be nothing without you. Thank you!

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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