For a significant portion of time, I served as volunteer chaplain at a men’s maximum security prison. This was probably one of the most significant training opportunities that I received in my journey toward ordination. It began as a CPE (Certified Pastoral Education) course and extended into two years of ministry. Freedom was a word often used as the men talked about walking out the door and going home to be with loved ones. Although I celebrated those days with them, I began to cherish the occasions when I would hear testimonies of experiencing new freedom inside the walls. Maybe it was a change of attitude, or a discovery of a positive personality trait. Maybe it was the opportunity to share one’s story during group time or play a guitar during worship. Maybe it was a new understanding of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Is the most important test of feeling free when we are limited physically in some way? I’m always inspired by Joni Eareckson Tada’s witness of freedom as a paraplegic. Think about how handicapped people are able to overcome what others might see as limiting, or veterans who have learned how to interpret freedom as those who have risked their lives to secure it for others.
Do you ever wonder if church doctrines enhance or limit people’s freedom in their faith experience? Is there freedom in our invitations? Do we offer or accept, only to receive? Do we make it difficult to follow the Master?
Today, while cleaning out a closet, I found a verse written by Menno Simons (1539), given to me by an inmate when I left the prison. It initiated this blog.
True evangelical faith
cannot be dormant.
It clothes the naked,
It feeds the hungry,
It comforts the sorrowful,
It shelters the destitute,
It serves those that harm it,
It binds up that which is wounded,
It has become all things to all men.
There is freedom here in spite of limitations the situation may provide. There are no rules, just love in action with abundant grace.
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