THE TERMS «PRISONER» AND «FREE» can be quite relative. People who at first enjoy freedom to come and go where and when they like can, in reality, feel trapped (trapped by a memory, by an abusive relationship by the lack of economic resources to do what they want, by a situation they do not want, by fulfilling the will of another and not their own, etc.). Meanwhile on the other hand, people who have lost their physical freedom and are imprisoned (because that is how our judicial system works) can, in reality, feel free_ free because they have accepted their guilt, free because hatred does not move them, free because they have hope in Christ and a possibility to make up for the damage.
Let us look at the case of Paul, who uses the phrase «prisoner of Jesus Christ» we see in today’s verse. The great apostle, evangelist, and preacher of Christ; that man who had traveled overseas and mountains and who went and came like the wind, soon found himself a prisoner because of the witness he had given about Jesus Christ. His service to the Master was something for which he was willing to lose his physical freedom. However, in prison, his mind did not stop being free. His freedom was rooted in his relationship with God, who is not bound by space or He was free because his will coincided with the will of God for his life.
When you look up the word «prisoner» in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you find a definition that says ‘someone restrained as if in prison,» and might consider that it could refer to being controlled by an emotion or passion. That is the type of prisoner Paul was: with chains or without chains, in the street or in a cell, the apostle was a prisoner of his passion for Christ and that was what made him free despite being in jail. Freedom for him lay in knowing he was not in jail by mistake, but that everything was obeying the divine plan for his life that is true freedom: knowing that we are living according to God’s plan for our lives even though circumstances may be adverse.
Sometimes we think that religion diminishes our freedom, that it is like a jail because it prevents us from doing what we want, but that is not true. In a balanced experience of religion, there is full freedom because what I want to do coincides with what God wants me to do.
«Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ» (Philemon 1:9).