Mike’s Meditations: Are You Being Held Captive?

by Mike Van Vranken

Last month, we considered how Jesus explained the purpose of his ministry in Luke’s gospel. He said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

We pondered his first reason for being anointed – that he came to bring glad tidings to the poor. Consequently, we contemplated how we might be poor in our desires to help the needy, forgive those who have hurt us, poor in our compassion to help the elderly, and how Jesus liberates us from all of this poverty with God’s loving grace. Hopefully, your daily prayers with this scripture helped transform your beginnings of 2019. This month, let’s consider the next reason for his ministry.

Proclaim Liberty to the Captives. Who are the captives here Jesus is talking about? Is he talking about you? As always, these are not questions to only casually consider. These are words of Jesus we want to take to God, and ask Him for His perspective about them. Sit quietly in total knowledge that God is with you. Slowly read again the passage quoted above: Luke 4:18-19. Now, say out loud: “Jesus came ‘to proclaim liberty to the captives.’” Say it again. Pay attention to your feelings inside you as you say it. Does it make you curious, anxious, joyful or sad? Whatever your feelings, take them to God and ask for His perspective on them and if they are coming from Him. And if so, ask Him to explain them. Listen quietly for His response, whether it comes as a thought, or an image or a memory of something. And remember, His response may be more quietness.

As you dialogue with God, ask Him to reveal to you where you are being held captive. And, be open to hear His response, even if it shocks you. Sometimes, we can be held captive to our long-time prejudiced thoughts about other people. Am I captive to a thought that people on government assistance are lazy or freeloaders? Am I captive to an idea that people with same sex attractions are all sinners? Am I confined to a prejudice against Muslims or Jews? Am I held back because of fear that someone in need might be faking it or taking advantage of others? Am I trapped in a cage believing that anyone in the other political party is always wrong and sometimes evil? Am I locked up in some form of dualistic thinking that causes me to feel superior or elite because of my beliefs? Am I confined to the thought that it is wonderful for Christians to travel to Central America on a missionary trip to bless those poor souls living there in crime-ridden fear and poverty, and at the same time, am I firmly convinced we should build a wall to make sure those same poor, scared people cannot come into my country? Is my thinking so restricted that I believe the sins of others are much more serious than the sins I commit? Do I think my own way of praying is better than the way others pray? Am I somehow held captive to all of these narrow and inhibiting ways of seeing the world and those around me?

Well, rejoice! Jesus came to proclaim liberty to us captives. And yes, we are all held captive to these kinds of beliefs at one time or another. But, God became human in Jesus of Nazareth and because of this incarnation, he showed us how to live in His created world. He demonstrated to us how “to love one another as” he has loved us (John 13:34, John 15:12). We cannot do it on our own. But, with his love and grace, “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Graciously allow God to show you all the ways you are held captive, and then faithfully ask Him for the grace to give you liberty from your captivities. Then, sit back and receive all of His gifts and graces. Be patient as they continue to unfold long after your prayer time is over. His graces will never run out; they are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). And one by one, you will be freed from all of your captive thoughts, words and actions. And, as we are transformed into this new liberty of freedom, we are now able to pray for and be incarnation to and for all the others who are held captive as well.

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