For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The words of one of the most famous inmates in history. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, and a couple of other high security jails, for 27 years. He went on to become President of South Africa and wrote a number of books - one in particular entitled, The long walk to Freedom.
He was famously asked to speak at Oxford Union where many powerful presidents, historians, entrepreneurs, scientists, inventors had spoken. A very conventional and highly respected venue would not have been opened to just anybody. His opening remarks, on July 11th, 1997, stating that he was a convicted felon, was once refused entrance to England but still they allowed him to speak was described as courageous and appreciated. He was a man of forgiveness and humility - aware of his own vulnerability. A man who overcame every form of prejudice to rise to an exalted position. Sound familiar? Jesus was the supreme example of forgiveness to the ‘whosoever’.
A man who changed lives.....
Mandela changed the hearts and minds of so many facets of mankind it is impossible to quantify. How many future leaders sit incarcerated in institutions around the world without knowing themselves what their potential is? We have developed a new poster campaign this month with the message from Bondage to Freedom. Within that massive gulf we believe that we are RELEASING, RECONCILING and REFRESHING inmates and ex-offenders towards Freedom. We believe that we are following from the example Jesus laid down for all of us, followed on by an extra ordinary man do extra ordinary exploits in Jesus’ name. As Mandela quoted not merely to cast of one’s own chains but to carry the mantel of freedom to wherever, and whoever, we speak to or whom we can influence.
Jesus had a simple philosophy - love everyone, show mercy to everyone, be compassionate to everyone, forgive everyone, consider everyone worthy of greater things - got the message? An inmate may have a strong Christian conviction which will certainly help him through their sentence and the moving forward of their life and relationships after they leave corrections. His family will be the first to know if there really is a change in him or her or whether they face another long battle to come back to a life of relative normality. That is IF they are Christian. We are trying to keep the power of the Holy Spirit stirring in them until their release date.
We all know how hard it is to live a life of righteousness and to follow through on the trust that the Lord has shown in us. The forgiveness He has shown, and continues to show, is as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103 v 12) - in other words, it has no end. What if the inmate is not a believer? How hard do you think that would be to get through the months, the years…? Consider those daily issues we face out in our form of freedom. If Jesus was determined to live and die for our right to be free of injustice, bigotry, intolerance of every form then, surely it is worth believing in and cannot be tossed away as though we have no need of it any more.
The Bible is clear - Romans 10 v 14 - 15 - But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!
The ministry of ACMS has been developed over 19 years. Many lives have been changed, including the volunteers. The call of God is strong and when we are led to go, the word says that’s what we should do. That doesn’t everyone should feel the guilt of not going but to help where help is required. Prayer has to be the most powerful tool the Believer has in his armoury. That makes the call specific and directs us to show where we are able to offer our support.
Nelson Mandela was an example of a man who God directed above his chains, above petty hindrances, above one of the most hated human systems of persecutions man has known (Apartheid), above any feelings for his own personal safety. Our freedom has been paid for, don’t let it sit on the shelf of indifference and intolerance to have no value.