Bread – Captured

August 23, 2013


Readings for Friday, August 23, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 19:24-43; Acts 24:24-25:12; Mark 12:35-44; Psalms 140,141,142,143

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A long time ago I was riding in our Chevrolet Suburban with my wife and children on a road trip coming north from Austin to Dallas, where outside of Waco I got stopped by the highway patrol for speeding. The stop was a worthy stop because I was driving sinfully. The officer walked up to my window, looked at my driver’s license, asked me to step out (leaving my young children and wife behind) and follow him to his car. He asked me to get in the front seat with him, asked me what I did for a living, and when I told him I was a lawyer he spent the next 20 minutes (while my wife and children are waiting in the stopped truck) telling me about his divorce and asking me questions about how he should do things. I engaged in a pleasant conversation with him in the hope (and expectation) that the ticket would be forgiven, but at the end he gave me the ticket anyway. I think the reason the conversation was over was because I suggested reconciliation rather than legal proceedings. I then walked back to my truck to the insistent questions about what was going on, free of capture.

I recall this event because in our reading today from Acts, the same thing happened to Paul. He is standing before Felix and Drusilla, both Jews, giving his defense against the accusations of the Jewish leaders. Paul spoke about faith in Jesus Christ, righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment. Acts 24:25. Upon hearing these things, Felix was disturbed and sent him back to prison. Off and on for two years, Felix would recall Paul from prison, listen to him for a little while, and then put him back in. Felix was succeeded by Festus who ultimately sent Paul to Rome on appeal to Caesar, a right which Paul exercised to avoid being sent back to Jerusalem.

Now the differences in our two stories are important, because I was charged rightfully but Paul was charged wrongfully, and I was released from captivity after a while and Paul was not released, but there are similarities. One, we were both captive for a while. Second, one of the reasons we were held captive was that the civil law enforcement was interested in what we had to say. Third, what we had to say challenged the pre-set thinking of our captors – me by suggesting reconciliation when he was more interested in techniques of fighting and Paul by suggesting that Felix and Drusilla would not survive the coming judgment by relying upon obedience to the law, but only by faith in Jesus Christ. Fourth, what Paul and I both had to say was the truth, delivered in kindness surely, but the truth nonetheless. Fifth, neither of us was thanked for our message – me the ticket, Paul continued imprisonment.

But in both situations, I have to ask the question – who was the real captive? Was it the person who appeared to be free, with the power to arrest and imprison, but who was captive to the thoughts of the world with no ability to grasp the path of destruction he was on? Or was it the person who appeared to be imprisoned, with no power to extricate himself until let loose, who was captive to the voice of God? Was it the slave to sin or the slave to Christ who was, and is, the real captive?

Yes, Paul ultimately died at the hands of the Roman authorities, imprisoned in life temporal and free in life eternal. Felix and Drusilla died too, because it is the common end of man. We don’t know how they died (from the Biblical texts), but die they did. If they kept on the way they were going after they met Paul, they rejected the truth because they were captive to the world, they were dead in their sins during life and died in their sins at death temporal, and are not free in life eternal, but are committed to the lake of fire. Felix and Drusilla were both imprisoned in life temporal by the world, dead for all eternity. Paul’s chains were obvious, but removed. Felix’ and Drusilla’s chains were not so obvious, but permanent.

The question is not whether we want to be captured or held captive, but who are we captured and held captive by? Are we captured by the truth or captured by lies? Are we captured by God or by Satan? Are we slaves of Christ or slaves of sin?

And in God’s remarkable economy, when we are captured by Christ we are free indeed. How does capture lead to freedom? With man, it is not possible. With God, it is sure.

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© 2013 GBF

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