Make You Free! (1)
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
The very idea of “slavery” is repugnant to the Western mind. I say “the Western mind” simply because slavery is still very much practiced where the worldview inherited from ancient Christendom has not yet shaped the outlook and practices of those who have power to exert their wills over others.
More people are kept in some form of slavery today than in the whole history of the American experiment to 1863. In the Muslim world, among certain Hindu and other religious sects, and within the Marxist world, “freedom” is just another word for “power.” They alone are “free” who can wield power against others, to do whatever they wish, whenever they please.
But in a larger and more mystical sense, slavery of another kind exists, even in the nations of the West, and it threatens to clamp down both on those who regard themselves as the freest of all people, and those who are seeking freedom for the first time. I refer to the slavery that Jesus mentioned, the slavery of sin.
Were we to consult Jesus on the state of “freedom” among the nations of the world, it’s not difficult to imagine how He might respond. Everywhere, freedom is at risk, if not altogether forfeit, and the tentacles and shackles of sin threaten to enslave and destroy unsuspecting people in every culture and clime. “Whoever practices sin,” Jesus explained, “is a slave to sin.” Slaves are not free to know liberation from the oppression that grips and grinds them every day. Those who are addicted to drugs, sex, pornography, or power are slaves to powers they cannot control, and from which they seem powerless to escape.
The recent recession has shown us what can happen throughout the world when people become enslaved to making money, indulging in things, or wielding political power. Unscrupulous bankers and financiers, ego-centric politicians, and greedy consumers – all the slaves of one idol or another – plunged the world into an economic tailspin from which we have yet to recover.
People who just want a job, a home, and a steady income, have instead become slaves of want, and look to the federal trough for whatever pods and crumbs may be gleaned there. Even now, in parts of the Islamic world, people are seeking to throw off the slavery in which they have been kept, and are determined to break its shackles once and for all. But what sin and what bonds of slavery await them on the other side of dictatorship? Enslavement to mullahs and militias? To sensuality and stuff?
“Sin is lawlessness,” wrote the Apostle John (1 Jn. 3:4). “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning,” he explained, “also practices lawlessness.” All who practice sin, therefore, are slaves to lawlessness; they are in revolt against God and their own consciences (Rom. 2:14, 15), and they are helpless, on their own, to extricate themselves from their plight, or even, in many instances, to acknowledge their enslaved condition.
What can set us free from sin? And what does it mean to have such freedom? If sin is a form of enslavement, and if we cannot break the shackles of sin by our own efforts, then who or what shall deliver us from this body of death?
Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free” (Jn. 8:32). Do we find the idea repugnant that people everywhere are slaves to sin? Then what good will it do to condemn them for their slavery to a power they cannot escape? Should we not rather have compassion, and should we not rather be urgent to make known to all who are slaves to the sin that is destroying them, that there is truth, and that truth can make them free?
Download the series, "Make You Free." Click here: VP Free.
For more information on this topic, get the book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success, by Rodney Stark, from our online store. Or read the article, “Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner: How to Talk About Sin,” by Charles Colson.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.