The Other Great Commission

Last Sunday I visited another old church here in England, this one at the village of Steyning in Sussex. Called “The Church of St. Nicholas, Bramber Castle,” it was the last parish of William Wilberforce, the famous abolitionist. We’d been talking about him earlier in the day and my friend popped up, “Well, we have to take you to see his last church then!”

William Wilberforce believed passionately in the importance of setting people free from slavery, and he was committed to doing something about it. It struck me how, in his own way, he uniquely carried on with Jesus’ mission and ministry: “. . . that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free . . . (Luke 4:18-29). That’s encouraging to me. I don’t live in Wilberforce’s context of slavery, but there are unique ways I, too, can be living out the commission to help set people free from whatever they may be in bondage to.

(inside St. Nicholas Church)

For example, I remember watching a woman I knew getting caught up in what I could see was a dangerous situation. I had been observing from a distance and quietly interceding for her for some time when I distinctly felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to talk to her about it. I sensed that my role was not to confront her about the situation, but to simply bring her to Jesus and help her talk to Him about it herself.

We met at Starbucks for coffee, and after chatting for a few minutes, I took the conversation to a deeper level. “Sandra,” I said, “I’ve been praying for you lately. I keep having a sense that you are trapped by fear about something. Is that possible?”

Sandra did not take long to respond. She was indeed very afraid, she said. Finances were tight, almost desperate, for her. She did not know if even her basic needs would be met, and she was afraid of being alone. These fears had been growing and were nearly consuming her. She had been trying to cope with everything on her own — a pursuit that was carrying her further and further from God and from peace of mind.

Here, then, was the prayer target. While the emotion of fear is a normal human reaction to danger, the sin of fear is a fleshly response to circumstances that seem beyond our control. It can cause us to turn to all kinds of behaviors that take us away from God’s best plan for us. It can become our master—and we its slave.

When I suggested that Sandra confess her fear to God to receive His forgiveness and healing, she agreed wholeheartedly. From there, without my saying a word, she also tearfully confessed to God her temptation to enter into an immoral relationship because of the financial security it would provide. Bingo. So I took the opportunity to pray for her, right there in Starbucks: to pray for freedom from fear, and for the Father’s comfort, love, and presence to be poured out on her. I prayed she would clearly see and experience His provision for her instead of finding her own solution. And she did. She walked out of the trap that had been laid for her and, even better, she broke out of her pattern of bad decisions rooted in fear.  It was a turning point.

It’s not really my job to point out another person’s failures or shortcomings. But it’s always my job –my commission, if you will—to bring people to Jesus for help when they’re caught up in bondage to a worry or a sin. Jesus gave us that commission—to set captives free—along with His authority and power to go with it. Freedom will not be “perfect” (i.e., complete) until we get to heaven. But it can certainly start right here on earth—with love and prayer.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.  . . Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)

(c) 2017 Arlyn J. Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.

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