It is easier to be a slave than to be free

26 01 2012

I hope my title caught your interest.  How could it be easier to be a slave than to be free?  I have to offer a disclaimer.  Thankfully, it is safe to say that those able to read this are not physically in slavery.  So my focus is on slavery that we slip into.  I heard a speaker say one of the harshest forms of slavery is to be a slave to our own passions.  When we are controlled by things such as lust, greed or anger, they become fierce task masters.  They control and dominate us.  We become their slave.  I know you are thinking, “But I thought you said slavery was easier!”  Yes, I did.  So, let’s look at this together.

The idea came as I was praying and reading during my own devotional time.  I am currently reading through Exodus.  It is amazing to see how the people continued to look fondly at slavery and wish they could go back to being slaves each time they experienced a hardship.  This was in spite of seeing God do one amazing act after another.  While it would be great to pick on them, I see the same tendency in my own life when things get hard.  I want to go back to being a slave.

I think I see why.  What struck me was slavery removes two huge words from my vocabulary: ownership and responsibility.  If I am free then I can take ownership of the situation or circumstances.  Let’s take the example of anger.  If I am a slave to my anger then it was outside of my control and the circumstance or the other person is to blame.  They should have known better.  If I am free then I own my response to my circumstance.  I own the actions I took in responding to the other person.  This naturally leads to responsibility.  I have to take responsibility for my actions and I have figure out how to manage my anger instead of simply being a slave to it.  Taking responsibility means that I both acknowledge the need for change and, because I am free, I take the steps to change.

Imagine if the Israelites embraced their freedom.  They would have realized they needed to be part of the solution as each challenge came up.  They would have taken responsibility for their part and wanted to work with Moses and God to find a solution.  They would have come to God as free people looking for God’s guidance and direction ready to take ownership as they needed.  They would have become partners with God and Moses.

Galatians 5:1 Paul says:  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Paul wrote this because people had slipped into another form of slavery, legalism.  We have to be honest.  It is nice not to have to take ownership and responsibility for our lives and the things that go on around us.

My hope is that if something has you in slavery, it is eating at the back of your mind.  You know you have to take ownership and responsibility but you are honest that it would be easier to stay a slave.  What do we do?  I think the secret is with God and Moses.

First, we have to look to God and trust God.  We have to really believe that God is a better master than what we are slaves to.  God invites us to freely submit to him.  God wants us to live free and rely on him.  This means finding out what God’s standard and expectations are.  Second, we need each other.  Moses continued to point people in the right direction.  We need people we trust who will point us in the right direction and hold us accountable.  A sign a person is being like Moses is that they are looking to God and they have our best interest at heart.  I will boldly say we need both.  God works through people.  God used people to write the Bible and God continues to use people to be a part of his work in our lives.  When we trust both God and others the result is freedom.  Is it hard? Yes.  Is it worth it?  You better believe it!

I invite you to look at your life and see if you find yourself in slavery.  It may be an attitude, a bad habit, or even an unhealthy relationship.  Honestly evaluate what ownership and responsibility would look like.  Look to God and others who can help you become free.  It will be hard and there will be struggles.  Depending on how big the issue is, there may even be times when you will want to go back to being a slave.  Stick it out and work through it.  In the end you will experience freedom.  It will be truly worth it.

Grace and Truth

11 01 2012

By now we have settled into the routine of our daily lives. Many who made New Year’s resolutions are resolving that next year will be the year they will keep them. Some are looking at their waistline and gauging just how much they enjoyed the holiday season. They convince themselves they will start working out…tomorrow…which never seems to come. Change is hard even when the intentions are good. There are plenty of books and formulas on how to stick with something or make a change that will last. However, it seems like the only person it works for is the friend who visits the neighbor who you only meet once. That person always seems to get it right. The rest of us keep piling on the good intentions and hope that one day our will power will be strong enough to change us.

But I am a Christian. Change should be easy. We talk about transformation. We talk about a new life. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Change should be a piece of cake. My best intentions should be realized. Yet, those inside the church seem to wrestle with the same issues. The only person who was really changes is the traveling speaker who we heard once. That person’s change was so profound they were able to start a whole ministry around it. The rest of us keep piling on the good intentions and hope one day change will happen.

As we finish packing up our Christmas decorations, we need to remember we celebrated. John 1:17 says: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

When Jesus came and lived with us, I believe he brought the power of change. It rests in the duel power of grace and truth. The more I mature and see change in my own life, the more I am convinced of this reality.

Truth is powerful. It helps us have an honest assessment of where something is at. It gives us a clear picture. We see things as they are. Truth can be very painful to look at. Sometimes too painful. So, we minimize it, ignore it or turn it into a weapon we use to beat ourselves or others up with.

In steps grace. It is sweet and refreshing. Hope runs alongside it. It lifts us up. It encourages us. It believes in us. Ultimately it creates a safe area around truth so I can face it and deal with it effectively. Grace truly is a gift of God.

The law that came through Moses was a picture of truth. Jesus is truth (John 14:6). When you study the life of Jesus, you see those who were self-righteous (trying to be their own truth) were silenced. Those who had been broken by the truth of their life received grace. In the midst of that grace their lives were transformed.

Do you need change? How honest are you being about the situation? How much grace are you allowing into the situation?

You will have to sit down with God and really be willing to be open and honest. I will pick on Christians for a moment. This is where we tend to minimize or beat ourselves up. We start to look at the truth but then leap to the “right answer.” The best we can hope for is to become self-righteous. The worst is we will become hopeless never living up to that “right answer.” We must accept grace. Allow truth to be truth and let grace embrace us. Then something amazing happens. We start to live truthfully and grace guides us in changing. We really see change happen in our lives.

Now imagine this at work in the relationships around us. What if we were honest with one another and lived truthfully. Yes, we would need to give grace and live by grace and look for lots of ways to inject grace into all our interactions. You noticed I didn’t say by inserting grace we ignore the truth. Again, to pick on us Christians, this is what we tend to do. We pretend everything is alright when it is not. Truth and grace must go hand in hand. It is the only way it works.

Are you ready to change? What is the truth about the situation? What does grace look like? Remember Jesus is truth so you will need to start with him. He is also the one who offers us grace. For the church, we must be communities that live by the duel power of truth and grace. The world desperately needs it and so do we.