Imagine being chained. Heavy iron links binding your hands, feet, and neck. Around you are a couple hundred other folks in the same condition. The place where you are sitting is dark and stifling hot. Flies and mosquitoes mercilessly attack your skin. A door opens allowing a spear of light to pierce the darkness. An unknown hand grabs your chain and growls something in an unknown language. You stumble, your legs stiff from sitting immobile. The growler, however, doesn’t care and yanks your chain leading you through the light. As your eyes adjust you can make out a platform, a crowd, and a chaining post. The growler pulls you up the steps and points to where you are to stand. Before you are a sea of strange faces wearing strange clothes. Another man in fancy clothes begins to speak, some of the faces look elsewhere but most are focused on the fancy pants man. You hear other men call out and point into the crowd. The fancy pants man suddenly stops talking. The growler leads you off of the platform. As you descend another chained person is being lead up. The growler hurriedly places you into a pen of sorts and links your chains to iron rings embedded in the pavement.
Slavery, it’s not pretty. It means the loss of freedom, the loss of choice, the loss of dignity, and the loss of humanity. Slavery requires obedience. Unlike the slave auction portrayed above, we choose our own master. Bob Dylan sang “you gotta serve somebody”. It may not seem like it but we often choose who or what we are enslaved to.
Ask most folks and they would declare their freedom. Freedom to live for their own pleasure. Freedom to think and believe as they choose. Freedom to say whatever comes to mind. Freedom to worship at the altar of Self. There is, however, a strange economy at work that bears more resemblance to a Chinese finger puzzle than to an open door. The more folks express a freedom of their own making the more enslaved they become. Yet, those who submit themselves to Jesus Christ find a freedom and purpose that is difficult to fully express. Unless, of course, they again exchange their liberty for the chains of legalism, judgmentalism, and pride.
Paul writes in Romans 6, “I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” (Romans 6:19, NASB95) Those who have chosen to become “slaves to righteousness” have chosen the narrow path. From the outside, it may look confining and boring. But for those on that path, there is freedom. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from addiction. Freedom from meaninglessness, hopelessness, and insignificance. Freedom to safely open our hearts and our secrets to others. Freedom to live a life of purpose. Freedom to find joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of turmoil, and love in the midst of rejection.
If you don’t know those freedoms perhaps you need to ask yourself a simple question – Who’s in charge of my life? Myself? My peers? My appetites? My family? My job? or Jesus?