Paul Geidel Jr. holds the record for the longest incarceration in the United States that ended with release from prison. Given a sentence of twenty years to life for second-degree murder in 1911 when he was 17 years old, Geidel was finally offered parole in 1974—and he declined. Having spent his entire adult life in prison, he wasn’t sure what to do or even where to go. At the age of 86, he finally accepted parole and is thought to have moved into a nursing home until his death.
For the next few days we’ll examine another feature of our identity as believers in Christ: we are free! Yet like Geidel, it’s tempting to remain imprisoned to our sinful habits and desires simply because they are comfortable and familiar. That’s why it’s so important for us to grasp what it means to be free in Christ.
Our reading today follows Paul’s extended explanation of the tension we experience as followers of Jesus who still wrestle with the temptation of sin (see Romans 7). If we are still struggling with our sinful nature, how can we possibly be free? The answer is that we’re now under a different legal system. We were under the “law of sin and death,” (v. 2), which condemned
us to oppose God and pursue our own sinful desires (v. 7). But after salvation in Christ, we are under the “law of the Spirit,” which gives us new desires and sets us free to obey God.
The law of sin condemned us to death. But now we are free from that condemnation! Jesus died for our sins and defeated sin and death (v. 3). We are free to “live in accordance with the Spirit” (v. 5), and free to experience life and peace.
Apply the Word
Geidel chose to stay in prison because he couldn’t imagine life outside the walls, and some of us feel the same way spiritually. We’ve grown comfortable with the chains of sinful habits, like refusing to forgive others or choosing to lash out in anger. Christ offers us peace, life, and freedom from that bondage. Ask the Spirit to sharpen your desire for spiritual freedom.