John 8:21-47; 2 Chronicles 2:17-5:1; Malachi 1:1-2:9
The institution of slavery is one of the darkest blots on mankind throughout history. Among ways slavery has been practices throughout history, what happened in the United States was one of the most brutal. The Articles of Secession leading to the Civil War proudly proclaimed that the ability to keep slaves was one of the main reasons the southern states seceded from the Union. While the northern states fought to preserve the Union at first, ultimately, ending slavery became one of the goals of the war. Slavery is an awful, brutal practice that sadly still exists all over the world. Slavery dehumanizes the person held as a slave. No longer do they become a person, they become a thing, a commodity to be used, abused, and sold for whatever the slaver can get. While it’s not practiced openly, it’s a horrendous practice that destroys people still today.
When Jesus wanted to portray the evil that happens because of sin and the difference a relationship with God could make, He used the example of slavery. He promised that those who held to his teachings would be free – which set the Pharisees off. They claimed that as children of Abraham, they had never been slaves and then Jesus hit them with a zinger. “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:34-36)
If Jesus wanted to deal with the obvious on this issue of freedom, He could easily have pointed out that the Pharisees had to answer to the Romans. Of course they weren’t free. They were only free if they followed the Roman rules. He made it more personal when He accused them of sin. That was the ultimate insult. The Pharisees considered themselves to be in a special relationship with God. Because of that relationship, they separated the world into two classes: Pharisees and sinners. When Jesus spoke in response, He not only accused them of sinning, He accused them of being slaves to sin – those who did sin’s bidding. As much as the Pharisees protested this picture, Jesus reminded them again and again that they were slaves to sin and followed sin’s ways. At the same time, He reminded them that slavery, at least in this situation, wasn’t permanent. There was hope. There was freedom for them if the Son set them free. And He would set them free if they would just believe Him and hold to His teachings.
The choice that Jesus sets before us is simple. We can continue in our sinful ways, as slaves to sin, or we can believe in Him and hold to His teachings that will free us from the clutches of sin and make us part of the family of God. The family of God is the most inclusive family in the world. Your past doesn’t matter, nor does skin color, nor any other part of you that makes you seem different from other people. God loves those differences and, in most cases, created those differences. He loves you. Most of us have a problem that’s the exact opposite of the Pharisees problem. We know our sin. We know how we’ve strayed from God and His teachings and we somehow have this idea that God doesn’t like us very much. I can guarantee you that God not only loves you, He’s waiting, and watching, hoping that you’ll take that first step towards Him so that He can greet you with His love and mercy. He wants to welcome you into His family. Will you change if you follow Jesus? The simple answer is yes. I don’t know how you’ll change. I can say that I believe that I’ve become more loving and gracious in dealing with people. The change that has happened in my life has come because I’ve trusted God to take care of the changes I needed to make. If we hold to His teachings, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.
Lord, I’m thinking of people that need to know You love them. Use me to show them Your love and grace.