Shackles of Defeat
I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. – Philippians 1:13b-14 (NIV)
The apostle Paul spent a good portion of his Christian life in prison thanks to a state that had no idea what to do with him.
Many would have interpreted his imprisonment as a sign of defeat. Certainly the state would have preferred this. Why else do we lock people away but to get them under control?
Today, one of the greatest issues we face with mass incarceration is the way that we structure imprisonment with defeat. In so many cases, you pay your debt to society, then get released with nothing but the skills and contacts with which you entered. You exit a jail and, in so many circumstances, you have no right to vote. Defeat is written into our policies around incarceration that codify disempowerment.
But some of Paul’s most powerful words were written in jail cells.
Paul took the chains of the state and preached fearless liberation. The state may have had him in shackles but, as far as he was concerned, he would be bound to nothing but the love of God.
Shackles can come off but God’s love clings forever. But are we taking off the shackles, here in America? Or do they just shift form?
May we always know that we are never defeated, O God.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.