Proclaiming Liberty to Souls in Prison
“I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt. 25:36b).
These words of Christ, spoken on the Mount of Olives just prior to His betrayal, arrest, suffering and crucifixion, no doubt held a place of special honor and comfort among the earliest saints of the New Testament era. Many joined their Lord Jesus in knowing what it was to suffer for their faithfulness to the sure Word of God, often in unjust, terrifying ways. They experienced imprisonment, torture and death simply for being baptized into Christ and making the good confession before the authorities. But then they were received into the hope and glory of heaven. The angels rejoiced.
Every missionary visits souls in prison. Sometimes they are behind intimidating walls and bars. Yet, more often than not (as can be seen in the vivid, diverse narratives in this issue of Lutherans Engage the World), our darkest and most foreboding prisons are absent of any such physical constraints. Instead, they are addictions, religious persecution, the crippling challenges of poverty, hostility to Christianity, families wounded or split apart, or legitimate anxieties over the most basic aspects of day-to-day survival. All these are signs and symptoms of our universal brokenness in sin and death.
Thankfully, coming to those in prison was exactly what Jesus did in coming into this world: “The Spirit of the Lord … has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18). What Jesus did, in words and deeds and in the bearing of His cross unto death to destroy sin and death, the Church does today, through every one of its members. Through you— the Church proclaiming the all-powerful Gospel given freely, God’s gift to mankind. Through you— united to Jesus in His death and resurrection, “that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6b).
He is risen indeed,
Rev. Kevin D. Robson
Chief Mission Officer, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod