The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ~ Romans 8:16-17
When I was in seminary I spent a week as part of a mission team to Belmarsh Prison. Belmarsh is the highest security prison in all of Britain, so there were some pretty nasty pieces of work in that place, but as we spent the time in the prison, the level of offense that these “hard” prisoners themselves expressed to us struck me. It seemed like they were in a constant state of complaint, and as they saw a group of seminarians, they had a fresh group of tenderhearted folks upon whom they could dump their outrage afresh. And let me tell you, they complained about really important things like having a slow kettle in their cell or being tired of the brand of cookies offered in the chapel. These were grown men and they were acting like petty brothers in the back seat of the car complaining, “He’s touching me!” As I listened to these men going on and on about such inconsequential things, I kept thinking how pathetic it all was. At the end of the day, however, I suppose they were stuck in the bondage of prison, and so as far as they were concerned, they only had the immediate inconveniences upon which to fixate. They had no perspective of greater things. Their identity was that of condemned prisoner, and their eyes were fixed on very low things.
So, as we prayed about how to minister to these men, an idea came to us. We need to speak to them of a new identity for those who put their trust in Christ Jesus. Specifically, we needed to share with them that if they would have faith in Jesus, they would move from being prisoners to being princes. To be a Christian is to be a co-heir with Christ, to be royalty. Well, you can imagine how this kind of word came across to a group of British prisoners. They had a very clear idea of royalty. Even amongst the prisoners of Belmarsh there was a plain notion of what Royal deportment should be. There’s certainly no complaining about small things. There’s no pettiness. There’s no needless offense. A Prince’s eyes are fixed on very high things, and so a Prince is not bogged down with even the sufferings of this life, great or small. A Prince is identified with the Kingdom of which he is an heir and therefore the small sufferings of this life fade into obscurity when compared with the glory of his royal status.
Now, here is the beautiful thing about the Good News we read about in Romans chapter 8. Even those men who had life sentences at Belmarsh Prison could be set free and made heirs of the Kingdom. Even those inmates could be Princes. Indeed, many of them became Princes of the Kingdom of God while we were there that week, and you could see a massive shift in their deportment. You could actually see it!
Now, many of us outside literal prisons are still in other forms of imprisonment. We see our situation as hopeless and therefore we are quick to notice the little peccadilloes of life and highlight them. We are easily offended and fixate on the low things around us. We are petty prisoners rather than noble royalty. We neglect to remember that by the grace of God we can become Princes and Princesses of his Kingdom. We need but trust in Jesus and the power of his blood and our sins will be forgiven and we will be redeemed from the prison of sin and death. He will give us his Spirit, and the truth will be revealed to us that we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Thanks be to God, we will shed the petty deportment of prisoners and take on the royal deportment of children of the King.