Part VII of our series on Ransoming the Captive
We concluded our last post asking to what length you would go to get back a family member who was abducted. For most of us, there is almost nothing we wouldn’t do. But when it comes to ransoming others, we tend to abdicate that responsibility to someone else. Their own family perhaps.
But is that the love Christ showed to us and which we are called to show to others?
It is a customary thing, not an odd thing, to ransom a captive who is your own blood. Even non-believers do that.
The miracle is not in the act of ransoming a loved one but rather in coming to love with your whole life and all your resources the one who is not your own blood.
And remember: This—loving others who do not share our own blood—is a gift we receive from Christ. It’s not just a command. It’s a transformation of our hearts, by the one who made us one blood, through the ransom of his own blood.
I like the Weymouth translation of 1 John 4:7 for this reason. It says, “Dear friends, let us love one another; for love has its origin in God, and every one who loves has become a child of God and is beginning to know God.” Loving others who we’re not related to is God’s gift to us. That love has to come from him.
So understand this: the church does not set out to pay ransom or even to be ransom.
And we don’t set out to find people just for the sake of ransoming them. See, ransoming the captive is the ninth Work of Mercy, not the first. The church sets out to mirror the fullness of Christ to the world through those first eight Works of Mercy. When we do this, some people respond to his love shown through us. Then, as the world strikes back and takes these people (and, often, us) captive, other Christians undertake the necessary ninth Work of Mercy of ransoming captives in the same way that any army should ransom its own soldiers.
You know where you see this perfectly? In the story of Peter and John in Acts, healing the beggar at the Temple gate. It’s like a story of ransoming in three acts—or, more accurately, in three chapters of Acts: Acts 3, 4, and 5. It starts in Acts 3. I want you to watch carefully what happens.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.
And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Notice that Peter and John didn’t go out to ransom captives. They went out to pray. But when they found a captive, they ransomed him with everything they had. Remember: Peter did not say, “Silver and gold I have, but I’m not going to give it to you because I don’t give money to beggars. Instead, I’m going to set you free spiritually.”
Peter didn’t withhold money from the beggar. He had no money. Why? Because one chapter earlier, in Acts 2, he and the other Christians sold everything he had, and it was held in common with the church! He was honest: He was going to the temple flat broke! But this did not stop him from giving what he did have. And when he gave that, the captive was freed.
But wait. That’s not the end of the story!
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.
Ransoming the captive is personally very costly—and money is the smallest part of the cost. In Acts 3, the captive is ransomed by Peter and John. In Acts 4, Peter and John become captives because of their ransoming. And, now, you’ll see how costly that ransoming proved to be:
But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
…when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
The message here is that it’s not that you need to run around and look for strangers to ransom. The message is that God wants to transform your heart such that your Works of Mercy become costly, lifetime commitments to help unlovable others who want to be delivered from captivity in Jesus’ name.
Ransoming the captive, in other words, almost always results in the ransomer becoming the ransom. Just like Jesus.
That’s why this month’s field trip is not, “Find a captive and ransom them in Jesus’ name.”
Ransoming may start in a day, but it typically really does last a lifetime.
Not because a person becomes permanently dependent on us to bankroll their sin (more on that in the next post). But because the unlovable other becomes, in the deepest sense, our brother or sister in Christ.
What do you have that you can use to ransom others? Who will you begin to love with it?