Slavery is now regularly in the news and it should be because it is prevalent in many parts of the world. But in contrast, slavery to sin is present in all parts of the world and often gets very little attention. Even in the church. When Jesus mentioned to the Jews of his day that they were in fact slaves, they pretty much commented the way a third grader would if you told him he was stupid or ugly or fat: no, you’re the one that is a slave, and have a demon to boot! Read it. It’s kind of comical (John 8:31-47)
Seriously, the Jews claimed that the they were free and slaves to no one. Yet Jesus reminded them that anyone who sins is a slave to sin until he/she is ransomed from that slavery and made alive (Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13).
Christians often make the same mistake of thinking “who me?” and that we can’t be enslaved. Well, probably a better way to understand it is that Christians choose slavery over freedom more often than we think. While we are free and don’t HAVE to sin, Paul still tells Christians in his letter to the Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
To not go back to a yoke of slavery involves an intentional, conscious, everyday choice. It involves asking the questions do I have to do this activity, “religious” or “un-religious” in order to live, have worth, find meaning? Is this activity, behavior, or belief consistent with God’s design or mission for me or my family’s life?
These questions deal with the real heart issue and avoid falling into legalism, a judgmental spirit, or saying THIS IS WHAT ALL CHRISTIANS MUST DO in regards to _______.
For instance, let me pick on our kids athletics for a bit (I’m about to enter that world of organized sports for first time as my almost 4 yr old starts soccer in a week) since that is a huge suburban idol? As I drive to Sunday youth group and notice little kids practicing T-Ball, I wonder, what should my response as a Christian parent be when my kid is that age? I can remember the days of the “Atheist softball league” (as I called it) that we would drive by on the way to church as a kid. Now, Sunday sports are more mainstream in our churches. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Christians playing in the “Atheist softball league” anymore. Why not? It’s offered then, and fits into our schedules?
Let’s get back to the slavery question. If your kid has a travel soccer, baseball, basketball league that regularly stops you for a season at a time from coming to worship, what should you do? In the past, folks planning sports events that prohibit church attendance may have thought, “Well, we need to do this Sunday afternoon b/c we would lose the church going population.” But now-and I’m not arguing for a return to “the good old days”-they don’t need to fear losing church folks.
We just cave. We go regardless now. If there is opportunity for our kid to get better, we go. After all, we want them in the NBA, or at least to get a college scholarship. Or maybe just to share the glory of a stud athlete in high school.
I’d love to be at church, but we have this sporting event.
Is this not suburban slavery?
I fear most of us don’t even pause and evaluate. Of course we go. We want our kid to get better or have fun, and he/she would be disappointed if we didn’t. But if we HAVE to do something, let’s just call it what it is: slavery. If I have to watch sports, fish, or read before doing something consistent with my calling as a gospel-driven parent, spouse, Christian, am I not choosing slavery once again? If we say we can stop these good activities that prevent us from better activities anytime, but simply don’t, are we that much different than the drug addict that says he/she can quit any time?
If our saying no to certain activities, behaviors, or beliefs would mean a loss of meaning, purpose, reason for living, then we’ve once again chosen slavery.
There comes a time to just say NO to good things so that we can pursue better things. There comes a time to say NO, because we have become enslaved again. There comes a time to say NO, because Jesus offers something greater than putting your hopes on your kid becoming the next great soccer player.
We forfeit that joy because we are always saying yes to our idols.
I want my kid to turn pro. I want him to get a scholarship. But I’m entering the season of my life where I will seriously need to make sure that I’m not enslaved to that. I would much rather him walk with Jesus and love His church when he leaves my house. Most Christians would say that is more important, but their unrecognized slavery simply affirms that is not the case. By grace and in community with other broken folks, I will continue to need Jesus and His church to help me recognize my own tendency to slavery. Particularly because I love sports so much.