Prisoner in the Lord

Remnants of the prison in Philippi where it is believed that Paul was held. 


Eph. 4:1    I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.


This passage is an appeal to unity but before Paul goes into that detail, he wants to remind his readers that he is in chains in Rome. Following Christ is not necessarily an easy task and he wants those who will read his letter to know that they can, just as he has, rise above their circumstances. This includes ones personal and moral infirmities. Sometimes we are imprisoned by our own lives and Paul has intentionally given himself over to become a prisoner of Christ. 

Paul then begs or urges his readers to “lead a life” which quite literally means “to walk” a life that is “worthy of the calling.” The entire journey is to be infused with intentionality in uniting the body of Christ, revealing love that reflects true freedom. Paul has an expectation that believers will grow in grace and will desire to conform their lives to reflect the pure and righteous God whom they have chosen to serve. All of this is not oppressive but develops develops in beauty. 


Everyday there are things that keep us down, or hold us prisoner. It’s the tyranny of the urgent that remains before our eyes. For me, it’s another report to write, another sermon to prepare, more e-mails to answer, and more writing projects than I have time to prepare. It’s far too easy to become a prisoner to my in-box or to-do list. However, if I do that, I’m prone to miss out on the beauty and mystery to be found in God. 

The unity to which Paul calls us is found in the Triune God. When we are united with Christ, then we too participate in the relationship found in God. The result is unity, not on human terms, but on God’s. There is too much ego involved in all of us for this to happen only by human will. Only when we give ourselves over to entire participation in God can we be filled with God’s love and unity, which then spills over to the inclusion of others. This is why we want to be prisoners of Jesus Christ, for only then will our walk in life be entirely reflective of the nature of God. 

Paul believed that intentional imitation of Christ was like exercise for the spiritual life, strengthening the muscles and sinews of our lives and helping us to be formed into the image of God. This was not a works theology, but rather, a participation and willingness to imitate and be united with Christ. To be a prisoner in the Lord may include physical shackles, or, it may be glorious freedom resulting from a life of intentional and wholehearted devotion to Christ. 


Lord, we pray for unity among your children which will spill over into the surrounding culture. Amen. 


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