Wednesday, 8 May 2019
Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. Hebrews 13:3
The author has been referring to matters of conduct for the body of believers. In verse 1, he mentioned continuing in brotherly love. Then he referred to entertaining strangers. Now, he says to “Remember the prisoners.”
Though he is certainly speaking first and foremost of believers here, and not merely prisoners in general, it probably extends beyond that as well. There are some who are in prison who rightly need to be there, and it is the best place for them to be. However, there are others who are prisoners who are believers that have been imprisoned for their faith. There are captives of war, and there are those who were sold into slavery – maybe because they couldn’t pay their debts. The Greek word signifies being a captive, as in bonds.
When he says to remember them, it means more than just to think about them, but to consider their plight, empathize with them, and pray for them. And then he explains it by saying, “as if chained with them.” The Greek word he uses means to consider themselves as if being bound together with them, as prisoners often are. But in this, there are two possible extensions of what it means:
1) As if being bound with them literally; as if in chains together, or
2) Because we are bound with them in the sense that all are slaves of someone. We are either a slave to the physical world, or we are slaves to Christ and His righteousness.
The first is probably what is on the author’s mind, but the second is probably still a consideration of his. He then says, “those who are mistreated.” The word here is only found in Hebrews 11:37 (describing the mistreatment of those of faith in past times) and here. It speaks of those who are literally tormented or suffer adversity at the hands of another.
To finish the thought, he then says, “since you yourselves are in the body also.” Here, he is referring to the physical body in which we live, not the body of believers. This is certain because if he were speaking of the body of believers, the word “body” would be preceded by an article. The only other time it is used this way is in 2 Corinthians 12:2 where Paul refers to himself.
Here, the author is speaking of those who are alive and who are suffering. Because we are still in the body, we should remember those who have it off worse than we do, empathize with them, pray for them, and even visit them if this is an option.
Life application: Some of the most effective ministries around are prison ministries and they can reap a gigantic harvest for Christ. If you have never considered this as an opportunity to tell others about God’s great plan, there are usually groups which already minister to prisons across the world. Maybe this is something you could consider as part of your gratefulness to Him. The author, and thus God who inspired the author, wants us to empathize with others who face trials, not just to brush off their situations with a shrug. Most of us will never face any such trial, mistreatment, or imprisonment, so it is hard to empathize, but this is what we have been asked to do.
Above all, if you are aware of someone who has genuinely been arrested or mistreated because of his or her Christian testimony, be sure to empathize with that person first and foremost, and comfort them if you can. Let them know that their trial is not in vain.
Lord, thank you for those who have faithfully endured for Your cause and are suffering or imprisoned for Your name. There are many in distant lands, and even in our own nation who, even now, fit this category. Please be with them and comfort them in their hardships. This, to Your honor and for Your glory. Amen.