I tend not to publicly offer opinions on politics, etc. But this topic is more than that. As I saw a Facebook post about slavery today, I realized how this affected me.
Slavery has bothered me for many years. While I may speak against it in Bible class (according to the topic, issue, etc.) and privately, I never delved into the topic in any serious way. I ask myself: Is this enough?
Do we know anything about slavery? Is it a minor, side issue for us because we either don’t see it or refuse to see? What if my granchildren were kidnapped and sold into slavery? Then how would I respond?What if it was a neighbor or extended family member?
I am not pointing a finger at anyone. Just raising the issue. See EndItMovement for some additional information.
The Greater Slavery
As much as human slavery bothers me, slavery to sin does more so. And this slavery affects every single person. As Paul wrote: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
The problem is that we are very good at identifying others in slavery to sin. But we are less than candid with ourselves. God does not let us off the hook, though.
Paul talks about the power of Baptism in the life of the Christian (Romans 6:1-10). He notes: “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3)
This is not just theology, but practical living. Paul continues:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death,c or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. (Romans 6:16-19)
So, am I a slave to sin? Or a slave to righteousness? As I look at my life, sometimes I wonder.
Is my anger righteous or defensive and protective? Is my attitude toward others one of superiority or humility? Sadly, I am a slave to sin more than I want to admit.
And that is a tragedy. I can see someone in slavery when surrounded by bars, pimps, whips, threats. But my slavery? More sedcutive, more tantalizing, more promising. But also more intrusive. I can’t turn off the internet of my mind. I can’t change the TV channel in my memories.
The Greatest Release
I remember the night that the first Vietnam POWs were released in early 1973. At the time I was taking my physical to join the military. I remember the looks, the expressions of joy and the marks of imprisonment. 18 months later one of the longer held POWs became my first commanding officer. For a year, every week, I arranged for him to spend two hours talking to our command officers (pilots and intelligence officers) about his experiences.
It was not very pretty (he had been tortured). Slavery is never is pretty. But God does not leave us to wallow in sin, doubt, fear, attacks, criticisms… In Romans 6:11, Paul first uses the imperative (command) in Romans.
Because of baptism, we have been released from sin and its tyranny. Thus, Paul writes:
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Note that he is not telling us that we have to do something to be freed from sin. Only God can do that, and he has done that through our baptism in Jesus (Romans 6:1-5). Rather, here Paul urges us to believe what God has already worked and done for us and in us.
Human slavery and trafficking in the modern world is complicated, protected, profitable, despicable. There are many strands, but there are movements to end it. I support such movements.
Slavery to sin in the modern world is as old as the story in Genesis 3. It takes even more to overcome this kind of slavery. It would take an act of God. In fact, it did take an act of God: Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin. John announced when he first publicly pointed to Jesus:
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
And Jesus accomplished that, fulfilling Isaiah 53 (as well as many other prophecies) and then confirmed by the apostles, 1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21, etc.
Let’s not let slavery to sin dictate our lives—to give glory to God.