July 6, 2014

Slavery and Freedom

I gave the communion talk at my church last Sunday, and wanted to develop some thoughts from it a bit more.

" 11For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,
13And again,
            “I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”
            And again,
      14Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. " Hebrews 2:11-15

What does it mean for us to be free of the slavery of the fear of death? We no longer are forced to make decisions based on self-preservation and self-interest. We no longer need to seek out stuff and status in order to relieve that anxiety. We don't have to concern ourselves with living a live that will let us "be remembered"; we'll have our names proclaimed in Heaven. We are finally freed to "love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves." We sacrifice of ourselves to make decisions of others-interest and others-preservation.

But this freedom takes us to an unusual place. Where His death frees us from slavery to the fear of death, we make the decision to honor the ransom paid by His blood, and become His bonded servants.  Rev. 5:9 " And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

As we become Christ's servants purchased by His blood we are able to fully live into the freedom from the fear of death, allowing us to live in a way not possible in our old lives.


OK, that's the official devotional version, but what does this really mean for us internally?

A friend and I were chatting about my talk after church, and he commented on how frightening this freedom is. That hadn't occurred to me, but I realized how right he was in that assessment. Being free from enslavement to ego-driven choices in a theological sense means that we can also have that same freedom in a psychological sense. We don't have to try and be who we think others want us to be. We're free to be exactly who He has always meant us to be. Indeed, that person who we are meant to be is the one He proclaims in the congregation.

But, simply being yourself can be costly. Sometime who we are isn't always easy to accept fully for others, and vice-versa. This is where we have to continue to grow in Christ. We grow to be more loving, more accepting, more forbearing, more like Him. 

This isn't easy for me. It's easier to work from the 'fear of death' paradigm instead of seeing the people around me as having the same worries and fears that I do. It's easier to expect them to have all their stuff together so that my life can be easier. It's easier to criticize them for having different ideas and opinions. And it's much easier just to cut them off rather than reach out in reconciliation. 

Lots of preachers have spoken on what 'regeneration' in Christ is. Mostly, their definition seems to be 'Good Christian", the kind you see in church every Sunday. But I think it's a lot bigger than that. All too often, 'Good Christian' can be just a mask we wear to give others a good impression. Being freed from the slavery to the fear of death means that masks are no longer necessary. We simply are who we are, working towards becoming more Christ-like in making decisions based on the needs of others, instead of based on ego/self/fear. It's that change that I think is a bigger part of regeneration than making a spectacle of repentance. 

Dear Lord, help us each to realize that the chains of our slavery to the fear of death have been removed, and help to understand the true lightness of taking on your yoke. Amen.

I'll leave you with a beautiful song from Eric Hansen, "Hero In The Dark". Take a few minutes to enjoy its beauty and reflect upon the lyrics.

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