“Truly I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:26
I love chapter 5 in the book of Matthew. So much of it contradicts the way of the world today. Jesus has a way of turning things upside down. He lives a life of forgiveness, unconditional love, sacrifice, servanthood and confidence. He shines a light on our normal, human bent way of selfish living with tenderness, but all the while drawing us to freedom. He invites us to rely on Him to truly live. Some of us have been trying to survive in our own strength, knowledge, possessions and truth. Can I ask how you are doing?
I can ask because I know this way of life. I recognize fellow prisoners because I have been one. Chains are not always visible to the naked eye. Let’s look at the verse I mentioned at the top of the blog. Freedom is not granted until the debt has been paid in full. This made me think of others that we may put into prison and keep them there until they have paid us back. The problem is, not everything can be paid back and therefore prison doors remain locked. However, in reality sometimes it is your heart that is keeping that person or group out. You are the one who is actually locked away. You might have decorated your cell up quite nice and a little light filters in. You might have plenty of visitors and the food is good, but the fact remains that you are not free.
So, what is the payment that is being demanded? Did your spouse leave you and now every man or woman who wants a relationship with you is allowed only so close? Did it start much earlier, say childhood and you were abused in some way? Will fear take you to a lifestyle that says you are not who God made you to be and you go against His design and you pay a price for protection? This requires a fight and gathering of “open minded” people to get this perversion accepted. Are you willing to pay? Were you rejected by the church and now all religious institutes are dead to you and you pay the price of eternal separation from God? Did you fail at a business and now are stuck in a job that is miserable, but it pays the bills, so you stay? Now the world misses what you were gifted to do. What about family? Everyone is so different from you and you just can not find your place, so you stay away. Your friends are safe and accept you after all. Your family pays the price of your absence.
The other day I got a picture of people in prison clothes. The sad thing was it was me who issued the clothes and marched them into their cell. Hurt feelings tend to trigger a feeling of anger and my response is to block them from my heart, but I have never had such a visual picture before. It was up to me as to how long they would stay. I got to decide when the last penny was paid. What could they do to unhurt my feelings? We can go back further and ask the same question. What amount would give back time or mend a broken heart? The answer is nothing can give you time back or un-break a heart. But you know who can? The maker and creator of both hearts and time.
Believe me when I say He is the mender of broken hearts and restores time. No, I cannot go back in time, but those years that have been lost can and are being redeemed. In fact, they have been used to shape me in a very unique way. Yes, there was pain and much I wish did not happen. And to own my part, my choices cannot be changed, but they do not have to be repeated. I do not have to spend another day in a prison as the jailer or the prisoner. Prison life is confining, boring, dangerous, dark, lonely and joyless. You have to produce experiences, feelings, company and excitement to satisfy or distract from reality. With God and the freedom following Him offers, this striving is not necessary.
In fact, take the words in will you? “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts in under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15). This light is bright and brings others in. People are drawn to light and then question where your light comes from. Also, you then can go back and light the way out for other prisoners. For the price has been paid, every last penny. When Jesus died on the cross, all our sin was paid for. Not only ours, but the sins committed against us. Once and for all paid for. Debt cleared. We were bought with the most precious currency, the blood of God’s one and only Son. We cannot pay, but He did.
The door is wide open and freedom awaits. Do you need to release captives or do you yourself need to walk out? Find a “city on a hill” and learn what this upside-down living looks like. It is more amazing than can be described. Not all the time easy, but that kind of life is not promised to anyone. Can you imagine the impact this would have in our families, schools, cities, churches, government, nation and world? What would our economy look like or imagine the things that could be created! Think about how crime would stop, illegal drugs would no longer be peddled, sex-trafficking would be abolished, abortion would be stopped, marriage would be back to its original design as one man and one woman. I doubt the foster care system would be necessary. Schools would be safe and communities would be united. People loving people is a beautiful thing.
While we dream of this as our reality, pick up a copy of the scriptures and read Matthew 5. Read the teachings of Jesus and consider what He is offering. It will hit you as impossible and not “the way things have always been done”, but I pray it draws you in and you consider the alternative. We have tried prison living long enough, don’t you think? Freedom awaits and our world is waiting to see your light. What will you do now that you know?