Solitary – done or existing alone….As humans we are people of the people. We like to be around each other for the most part and that desire to be “in the crowd” is something that can be used for the good or for the bad. It’s for this reason that hardened criminals are sometimes put in solitary confinement for a period of time. No interaction with anyone else, and confinement in a small cell that is away from the main flow of the action. The plan is to break people, but many just become accustomed to their surroundings and live on. We lived near San Francisco, California in the 80’s and we had some great times of getting to visit places we had only seen on TV. One place we traveled to was Alcatraz Prison in the San Francisco Bay, right across from the city. It was amazing that a bustling city like San Francisco was just a few hundred yards from one of the most famous full security prisons in the world. As we approached it I remember thinking, “Man these guys are really isolated on this rock island.” They were isolated, but a much worse isolation was going to be shown to us on the inside. As we traveled inside the prison the history of the Island was shared with us, and it was very interesting. Then the tour took a much different turn as we went down a hallway that housed the solitary confinement cells. They told us of the solitary confinement of the notorious Al Capone and the thinking behind this type of imprisonment. The next thing that happened made it all come vividly to life for me. He asked for volunteers to go in one of the cells and warned that he would shut the door behind you. Of course, I volunteered and took my few steps toward the waiting door and the smiling tour guide. As I went by him, he said, “This is going to be a life changing experience for you.” I stepped in the prison cell that had a really dark outer area, and then stepped in the inner cell and he closed the door. Total darkness! I mean total isolation and in my mind I really got scared. I was so glad when he opened the door. My perspective changed for the rest of the tour and I had a great appreciation for the impact of being in “solitary.” There are two sides of Solitary, and two very different perspectives to learn from it. There is the solitary a person who doesn’t know Christ experiences in their life every day. They are imprisoned and put in solitary sin confinement due to the sin in their lives. Their prison is unbelief and the key that could open their cell door is waiting for them but they don’t know that there is a key at all. They just go through every day away from the loving God who died to get the key. They don’t think the cell is dark because it is what they have always been used to, so it is normal. But it isn’t….. They don’t know that there is a new life of freedom just on the other side of the prison door, but they can’t know about it unless someone tells them about it. This is where the dark side of solitary comes into focus. Those of us who have been freed from the dark cell and prison can tell them about the key that is waiting to open their prison door. It is imperative that we share this message of hope to those who are imprisoned and in darkness. It is time to Stand Strong and Stand True. 1 Timothy 2:4-6, “He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us-Jesus, who offered Himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out.” It would be such a tragedy to keep this freedom from those who are imprisoned. Sure, they are in prison because of their sin, but we were there too and know what it feels like to hear the message of freedom and then get to choose Christ. Of course, some people will see the open door and be afraid or non-believing enough to walk back in the prison cell and stay there…….in darkness. The point is “we must at least tell them!” The great thing about this message we carry is there is lasting power in it. In Acts 5:19-42, the Apostles were seeing God do great miracles as they proclaimed the name of Jesus and the hope He gives. The High Priest rose up against them in jealousy and had them put in the public jail. During the night an angel came and opened the prison doors and set them free. The Word of God could not be imprisoned….The angel didn’t tell them to go hide out, but said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” When they heard this they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. The High Priest wasn’t through yet and continued to try and thwart their preaching but God used a well known learned man by the name of Gamaliel to reason with the high priest and so the High Priest beat them and let them go. He told them when they left, “Do not speak anymore in the name of Jesus.” The apostles felt honored that they could be whipped for the sake of Christ and every day after that continued to teach the whole message of Christ in the temple and house to house.
Here’s the whole thing in a nutshell. No one really wants to live in solitary confinement. The only ones who can tell them about the key are those who are free….us. If we will dedicate to share that message, no amount of restrictions put on us by the world will keep that message from being shared, if we will Stand Strong, Stand True. Which brings to mind the point. Have you been around people who are in prison much lately? If not, maybe you need to take a tour to the prison they are in and it will compel you to share with them how to get out of that prison. A little side note: Alcatraz means Island of the Pelicans. When you go to Alcatraz, you don’t even think a thing about Pelicans. The name of the Island that keeps lost people captive is Sin. The more I get to know of Christ it makes me realize that when I look at the Island of the world, freedom is not the first thing that comes to mind. Stand Strong, Stand True…..G.K. Chesterton said “There are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.” Christ is our ANGLE and with Him we will stand!!!
The Pilgrimage continues….