Monday, January 14, 2013

“In Heart and Conscience Free”

By David Anquish

“Our fathers, chained in prisons dark, were still in heart and conscience free; . . .” - Frederick W. Faber
      Singing it with a room full of preachers, elders, and our wives at a recent dinner and again two nights later in a worship service attended by more than 1,100 reminded me how much I like the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers!” It was in the service that I was especially struck by the first part of verse 2, quoted above.
      Living “in the land of the free,” it’s hard to fathom what it would be like to be “chained in prisons dark” for any reason, especially religious ones. I’ve read accounts of people in such situations – in the Bible (Jeremiah, Paul), early church history (Polycarp), Reformation translators (Wycliffe, Tyndale), the Holocaust (Wiesel, Bonhoeffer), and contemporary missionaries suffering in societies very different from ours.
      The stories never fail to impress and always make me wonder whether I will do the same if called on to do so. In no way can I identify with those sufferers. Their circumstances are just too different from mine.
      What I can say with no hesitation is that their actions reinforce a truth Scripture demonstrates. Political freedom is not necessary for regular worship, holy living, or spreading the good news. In fact, the witness of history teaches that the church has often thrived in times and places where hostility has been the worst. A reason for that is not hard to fathom. Before choosing to begin and stay on a course that may end in execution, one will be very sure of his commitment to it. We are not surprised if the kind of devotion shown in such situations exceeds that found in less threatening settings.
      My point is not to criticize us for being blessed with the providence of freedom. I’m not saying that because we are free, we cannot show crossbearing commitment, or that we cannot take seriously Jesus’ words about the correspondence between great blessings and much responsibility (cf. Luke 12:48). What I am saying is that Jesus’ reign has never been of this world (John 18:36) and thus no way of the world is necessary to see his will be done.
      Understanding that takes us closer to becoming a people who, though “chained in prisons dark,” will be “still in heart and conscience free.”

- David Anquish;
via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City Church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: Calvert City Church of Christ

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