On Volunteering for Prison


Colossians 4:10–11 ESV

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.


It’s one thing to be locked up in prison against your will. It’s quite another to volunteer. That’s the story of Aristarchus. There are friends and then there are friends. Aristarchus wasn’t some cool freedom fighter Paul met and befriended in prison. We have it on good evidence that Aristarchus and Epaphras alternated shifts of imprisonment back and forth between them so they could be alongside Paul to help support and care for his needs.

It’s one thing to visit people who are in prison, and a good thing. It is love at level of pure Jesus to become a prisoner in order to serve the imprisoned. Aristarchus and Epaphras checked their freedom at the door, fully entering into the vile, intolerable conditions of a Roman prison for the sake of the love of God. They became the prisoners of holy love.

Can I be honest about something? I’ve never done this. I’ve never done anything remotely close to this. Aristarchus and Epaphras challenge me to the core of my being. Their story challenges me to think about those people in my life who are in some kind of inescapable confinement of some sort. I find it easy to steer clear of situations that I can’t somehow solve, choosing to spend my helpful energies in those scenarios where “a little help from my friends” will do the trick. I think Jesus wants me to be more involved with more unsolvable problems, in places where I have nothing to offer but his love through my 100-percent “with-them-ness.” Isn’t this exactly what Jesus has done with us?

I have disclosed to you before the nature of the trials I have faced in recent years and continue to face in my personal life. As I reflect on it, I have known Aristarchus and Epaphras through what continues to be the hardest season I have ever faced. Far beyond paying me a friendly visit, they have entered into my imprisonment with me. They have attended to my needs. As I think about it, they have effectively shackled themselves to me in a very “come what may” way. I can’t, in words, express to you what that has meant. To say I am thankful does not begin to touch the levels of my gratitude.

It makes me want to become more of an Aristarchus and Epaphras in the lives of other people; people whose problem I can’t solve and yet people who have needs for help and encouragement and the love of Jesus with skin on.

You too?

A good descriptor for Domino #4/10: Cell Mates.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who entered and enters our world and our lives so fully that he will never leave us. Come, Holy Spirit, and teach me this way of the cross, that resurrection only comes to those who willingly lay down their lives for others. Though so much in me resists, I want the mind of Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. Have you encountered modern-day Aristarchus and Epaphras types in your life? What was that like?
  2. Have you been an Aristarchus and Epaphras type in the lives of others? What was that like?
  3. How are you challenged when it comes to entering into situations and challenges you can’t solve or fix? What does the love of Jesus challenge you to do in those scenarios?


Noon central time. Will be quick and substantial. I have news to share also. Will be on Facebook live and following. 

Zoom Meeting link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87125272574?pwd=clU0ekl3U09HNjVkekl0RDM5SUNSUT09
Pass code: 123456

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. JD, I must confess that I’m at a loss concerning the season that you are dealing with. You have shared with me that sometime this week that you will reside here in Texas. I’m not on Facebook so maybe that’s why I’m in the dark. As I’ve shared here on this blog before; I am greatly blessed by your insight and challenges through the Daily Texts. The nearest situation in my life as far as accompanying someone in prison is my nursing home ministry. It really grieved me during the 18 months or so that I was prevented from having in – person meetings with them. I was not present when at least two of them were taken home to be with the Lord. We reside in a rural area where internet service is marginal at best so zoom meetings aren’t really possible. You’re in my prayers for whatever you’re going through in this season of your life.

  2. To identify with and step into someone’s painful situation has been called “incarnational ministry.” I know a couple who many years ago moved into a violent, inner-city neighborhood with their children so that they could shine the light of Christ there. They crossed racial, cultural, and economic lines to fully embrace the people there and to open their home and their lives to them. I’ve been in awe of how they have given so much to demonstrate the love of Jesus and continue to do so as they still live and are entwined in that neighborhood.

    When a Christ-filled person, overflowing with His hope, voluntarily steps into and embraces a hopeless situation in an incarnational way, it is no longer hopeless. Sometimes the best thing you can do in a situation that you can’t solve or fix is to open your heart to people’s suffering and “weep with those who weep.”

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