Just recently I was invited into a prison in the North of England to talk about mercy and I met an extraordinary man called Peter. He came bouncing up to me as soon as I walked into the chapel. It seemed as though life was bubbling inside him. He immediately began to share his experience of God with me. He had been in prison for many years and had been refused parole several times but, he told me, God had always been with him.
He described how he came into the prison weighed down with his crimes, and ready to take his own life. Through the ministry of another inmate, Peter’s life changed. As he learnt how to pray and invite God into the darkness he began to change until he realised that God lives within him.
It changed him deeply as he surrendered more and more to God and the darkness disappeared. Whenever I think of the word surrender, I think of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a leading pharisee. Nicodemus was challenged to realise that he had to become part of a new order which involves a letting go of the need to control and the need to be right. It meant he had to be willing to open himself to the power of God’s unconditional love, if he was to be part of what God was doing in the world
He also had to be willing to let go of the manipulation and power that had been the focus for him and the other Pharisees. Letting go and abandonment are the only ways to know the truth of love. ‘So, Nicodemus,’ says Jesus ‘are you prepared to surrender to the power of love?’
It’s a massive question for us to reflect on. Will we surrender to God’s spirit and allow that spirit to change us or are we happy as we are, too comfortable to move or have our comfort zones punctured? Are we prepared to be spirit-filled people who are unpredictable for the sake of love, regardless of social conventions and what other people might think? Are we willing to stand for justice, truth, peace, compassion, regardless of the cost to ourselves?
Nicodemus, caught up with the life he lives, and the beliefs he has, is invited to surrender to the power of love and to become counter-cultural. That’s where the spirit will lead us if we are prepared to surrender to love. The question is, will we?