A good friend rang on the last day of Covid-19 level 4 lockdown to check on how I was doing. Staunch women that we are, we both admitted at the time that things were getting a bit tougher. My friend, back on her feet again after time in prison, commented on how lessons she had learnt inside had been extremely useful to her living alone during the nation-wide lockdown. She added, her voice rising with excitement, ‘The big difference now is, praise God, I’m free!’ At that time, she had her eye on the country’s move to level 3 and being able to head down the road to the beach, to smell the ocean and see the surfers ride. Free, indeed!
Further learning on the subject was at hand that day from my reading in Acts 5 about Peter and friends doing time in prison, an angel with attitude instructing: ‘We’re out of here!’ and then, dauntingly, that they should ‘stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this new life’. The outcome was an arrest, an official warning, and a flogging to let everyone know what was what. Peter’s focus, though, remained on who was who, with his daring declaration: ‘We must obey God rather than men’. And the Scripture records that ‘as they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer for the sake of the Name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah’.
The apostle’s testimony has strengthened the nerve of many a Christian since then, like the early-day Australian Salvationist, Captain Jessie Behrens, jailed at Castlemaine for leading open-air meetings. The prison governor couldn’t resist saying his bit after the magistrate had committed her to his custody. The Apostle Paul, he pointed out, had instructed women to keep silent.
Jessie retorted: ‘Yes, Sir, but Paul also tells us to obey God rather than man’. She got the apostle wrong but the principle right: God’s freedom is wide-ranging—including the freedom not to be right all the time.
Jesus said to people eager to follow him: ‘If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’ (John 8:36). That’s the good news, then and now, inside or out, and at whatever level we’re in or on.
By Colonel Margaret Hay