Voluntary Chain Gangs

handcuffs-1078871_640Ever serve time on a chain gang?
I’ll bet you have.
I’ll even bet you’ve volunteered to join one.
If you’ve never seen one, it was a practice, now mostly abolished, whereby prisoners were chained together in order to do menial labor such as building roads or digging ditches. They were linked to one another by shackles around their ankles.
But even though America abolished them they still exist.
You may be part of one.
Imagine trying to raise a family, do your job, enjoy your leisure time, and serve others all the while you are bound  to other people.
Imagine living with your mobility inhibited by heavy tethers and chains.
Imagine trying to solve a crisis or face down a disaster while bound and weighed down by shackles and by the others on your chain gang.
Imagine wearing every day the visible evidence of your past deeds and knowing no means of escape from this sentence.
This is the daily burden suffered by people who don’t know Jesus and even by Christians who fail to utilize another set of weapons we have that are not of this world: confession, repentance, forgiveness.
The person who doesn’t pick up the spike of confession and the mallet of repentance that drives that spike home, remains chained to habitual and past sins and weighed down by guilt.
The person who refuses to forgive others is like a person in chains staring at a sharpened ax beside him on the ground unwilling to pick it up and release him or herself from voluntary bondage in a chain gang with those he refuses to forgive.
Confession, repentance, forgiveness. Can you hear them on the chain gang reciting these words like a desperate hope for freedom as they dig endless purposeless ditches serving the merciless captor named bondage?
Confession, repentance, forgiveness.
Confession, repentance, forgiveness.
The chant they recite as they jab their shovels into the ground with every exhale of breath. And then, as you move closer you hear another word as they inhale. A word, a hope, that seems so far out of reach that it barely escapes their lips as they take in a breath – mercy.
Confession, repentance, forgiveness, mercy.
Can you hear them now?
Now, look around you. Maybe you’re in an office full of cubicles and desks with screens or a conference room seated around a table sipping over-priced coffee. Can you hear the chain gang in that room?
Confession, repentance, forgiveness, mercy.
Maybe you’re surrounded by students, people on workout equipment, grocery shoppers, mothers at the play group, patients, clients, extended family, your ministry team, worship service.
Whereever you are, there are people serving time on chain gangs. People who either don’t know the reality and availability of these most powerful weapons or people who’ve heard of them but stare at them passively, forgetting or refusing to pick them up and apply them to their bonds.
Confession, repentance, forgiveness, mercy.
Why, you wonder, is it so difficult, seemingly impossible, to effectively battle against our enemy?
It is difficult. It is challenging. It is impossible without the power of Jesus Christ and without our using the weapons He has provided to each of us.
But the weapons He’s provided are powerful and effective.
Confession: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16
Repentance:  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 ESV
Forgiveness:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” I John 1:9 ESV
Mercy: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
Are you tired enough of your time on the chain gang to seek the freedom that is lying at your feet?
Spend an hour in prayer.
Confess your sins.
Repent of all wrongdoing.
Receive forgiveness and extend forgiveness to those who have wronged you.
Bask in the rich mercy of our God.
When you rise, you will find yourself released. Able to mobilize. Energized. Free.
You’ll be so unburdened, you will want to share this freedom with those you love and even those you don’t.
Imagine an entire lifetime on a chain gang. Think how close you came to living that fate.
Now, look at those around you and ask God for the courage to show them the way to freedom.

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1 Comment

    The Conversation

  1. Angela Young says:

    Great stuff! I love your blog. Angie