From the time journalist Jill Carroll was reported captured until the news of her release, I've been singing - silently, hopefully, expectantly. Like thousands and thousands of people worldwide, I've been praying daily for the restoration of freedom to her and to others in similar circumstances.
Each time I prayed about this situation, the biblical story of the imprisonment of Paul and Silas came to mind, and I have not tired of the lessons it teaches nor doubted the strength and power of its messages.
As the story in the book of Acts unfolds, these two apostles were going about their business, healing. Following the healing of a slave woman, a fortune teller, which had detrimental financial implications for her owners, Paul and Silas were thrown into the "inner cell" and carefully guarded.
It would appear that everything had been done to keep them from their work and the rapid progress they'd been making. But nothing could keep them from praying, and pray they did. "And [they] sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25).
Picturing them beaten, and sitting in stocks, presumably in darkness, I understand their natural inclination to pray. But sing? Why did they sing, I've asked myself. The only answer that has satisfied me is: Because they knew He was there, with them, listening. No matter what, the love of God accompanied them, and they, even then, loved God back. Paul was living his words, "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39).
Suddenly, there was an earthquake that broke up the foundations of the prison and set all the prisoners free. When the warden realized what had happened he intended to kill himself, but Paul stopped him, telling him that all the prisoners were there. The warden could attribute the release only to the power of God, and in gratitude he cared for Paul and Silas before they went on their way. All were included in the release of Paul and Silas. No one was left in captivity.
The release and restored freedom to one journalist, and the joy we feel when we hear of anyone's release from a hostage situation, is right and good. But there is a greater goal as we continue to pray, and sing. That goal is also mentioned in the Bible. It is to take captivity itself captive - to restrain and stop hostage-taking. This is the activity and purpose of Christ, the love of God that transforms and heals and rescues us from bondage of all kinds. "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph. 4:8).
One of the gifts Jesus gave humanity is the knowledge that God's care for us is deliberate and reliable. God's presence is as active and powerful today as it was when it broke up the foundations of hatred and persecution that tried to hold back the Christ message that Paul and Silas were spreading. Evils such as hatred and persecution cannot prevail, for the everlasting God, who is Love, is not in them to give them life. Without the structure of Love, God, anything unlike Love necessarily collapses.
Mary Baker Eddy, who established this newspaper, dedicated her life to following Jesus' teaching to end bondage to materialism in every form it takes. She wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Discerning the rights of man, we cannot fail to foresee the doom of all oppression." She continued, "God made man free" (p. 227).
This is the condition we all deserve to see and experience here and now. It is the freedom that belongs to all of us without exception, for it is God's intention for us. Right now, in every cell, hospital bed, home, and office God is present to restore, to heal, to love, to save, and to release.