As I’ve mentioned before, I'm very grateful to God for this country. We're more prosperous, more free, and more blessed in this land than in any other in modern history, and we should acknowledge that. However, there’s no denying that this nation’s case for its stated ideals was marred at the very beginning by the institution of slavery. The man who authored the Declaration of Independence with its lofty claim that “all men are created equal” was himself a slaveholder. This doesn’t mean that their ideals were wrong, but it does mean that they (and we) failed to live up to them. The good news is that those ideals (as expressed in the Declaration) eventually led to the abolition of slavery, which had existed for thousands of years with no protests up until that point.
Jesus had some words to say about slavery, and they bear a careful study. He started off today’s reading by claiming that if they know the truth, then the truth would make them free. This has to be one of the most misused verses in all the Bible. He was not referring to just truth in general, but to himself. He is the Truth incarnate, and we experience this freedom by holding to his teaching; in other words, believing and acting upon what he was saying. The Jews, in their classic habit of misunderstanding (a common motif in this book) thought he was referring to physical slavery/freedom, and arrogantly claimed that they'd never been slaves to anyone. Of course this ignored the obvious and inconvenient fact that they'd been slaves to the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and--even now, while Jesus was speaking--the Romans.
He wasn't talking about physical or political slavery, but the spiritual type. And here’s a shocker: They were slaves, and so were you and me. He couldn't be more clear: "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin." Since we all sin, we'll in the same sinking boat. And let me tell you, sin is a harsher master than anyone who held a whip on a plantation.
And what was the key, the secret to this liberation? The first step, like in Alcoholics Anonymous, is admitting you have a problem. Like Neo in The Matrix, we all have to acknowledge that we’re in a prison that we can’t see, smell, taste or touch, and that this prison is holding us captive in invisible chains.
The second step is in changing your family. We’re all slaves, and a slave is only in a house as long as his master finds him useful. But a son is in a home because he belongs there forever. When we place our trust in the Son, we get adopted out of our natural-born family and into a whole new one.
So what does this mean for us? Well, first all of us need to be wary of political movements which promise freedom. This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue: political parties by their very nature are going to focus on political freedom: This is their raison d’etre. I’m not saying that it’s wrong for Christians to be involved in the political process (quite the opposite). But we can make the same mistake as the Jews when we think of slavery and freedom in terms of just the political. The main issue, for you, for me, and the church, is sin and its solution.
Second, we need to live like free people. To use the illustration of political slavery, consider the situation in 1865. The fourteenth amendment to the Constitution outlawed slavery and set everyone free in theory. But do you think that as soon as the news got to everyone, that all the slaves started to act like freed people? Actually, there are quite a few stories about former slaves who stayed on the plantations where they'd once been in bondage. For whatever reason—they had an attachment to their master, they didn’t have anywhere else to go, they were frightened at the prospect of making a new life, etc—they stayed right where they were and lived almost like emancipation had never happened. They were officially and legally no longer slaves, but they didn’t live like it. Does that describe me?
Lord Jesus, thank you so much for pulling me out of the darkness and misery of sin, and adopting me into your family. I'm no longer a slave to sin, and I need to live like it. Please help me.