Something I’ve had kicking around in my brain over the last couple of years is the idea of slavery. That sounds really strange of course in our modern society, especially here in the southwest. But the thoughts don’t steam from the past practice here in the US, rather it comes from what Jesus and Paul say.

The idea of slavery is as old as man itself and has been through various iterations over the years. In fact the Mosaic Law has commands for how to treat slaves and the rules governing their release. In fact the Law was pretty good for people in what we would consider to be a bad situation.

The Romans of course also made extensive use of slaves and it is estimated that thirty percent[1] of the population was slaves. Slavery was a common practice during the first century in which Jesus lived and he was not silent on the subject.

Yet Jesus does not address the issue of slavery directly. Give me a moment to make a slight detour but this is something that we need to address. Some have questioned why Jesus, and later Paul, did not outright abolish slavery. After all we have the very Son of God who surely was opposed to the practice, right? My response is that in the culture in which Jesus lived slavery was a common part of life (as hopefully we have seen above). It was so common, for so long a time, that it was an ingrained part of the culture. Jesus was already stepping on enough toes when he proclaimed his message. This was simply not a “hill to die on” like other parts of his message were. The same is true of the apostle Paul; in fact he tells Onesimus that he should return to his master because he has not yet been released from service!

Back on track, Jesus is going to tell us some interesting things about how our life is in slavery. First, in John 8:34 Jesus says:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin”

This is pretty straightforward and something that is pretty easy to notice in our lives. Just take a moment and think of a sin that you commit on a regular basis; got one in mind? Now think about Jesus’ words – are you a slave to that sin? Most of the time we are, its become a part of our routine and we can often not even think about what we have done until after the deed is complete! But the verse doesn’t stop there:

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:35-36

The context of this section is that Jesus has told the people that the truth will set them free. The Jewish leaders confronting Jesus are claiming that they have never been enslaved and that they are sons of Abraham. Jesus puts them in their place though by pointing to the one master that every sinner servers – sin itself. The hope though is that the Son will set us free so that we can truly be free!

Sometimes though when we look at our lives we may not think that we are truly free. I know that there are times in my life when I sin and wonder if I’m free, why did I just do that. We may return to our old master, but that does not change our status if we have been set free by the Son.

Of course this begs the question: why would I want to go back to that horrible, despicable, master? Sadly the reason is because we still live on in our bodies of flesh that have not been fully set free. This will not happen until we are glorified and we receive our new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

The other area I want to talk about today is Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

You know what I find so interesting about this passage – we all have a yoke! When you think about that you’ll either laugh or cry. If you remember the passage we look at above or natural “yoke” is that of sin. Here Jesus is telling us that we should come to him and take up his yoke, it’s nice and light.

But notice that even though Jesus’ yoke is easy and light we are still under a yoke! That’s the funny part, especially for us in America who so highly value freedom. We often take pride in our freedom and we do all that we can to help others in the world not be oppressed. But for those without Christ they are not really free! They are slaves to sin! And for those of us who are in Christ – we’re slaves to Christ!

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Paul’s understanding of slavery and how it fits into the theology of the New Testament but for today, consider who it is that you are serving? We all have a master the question is just who it is that you will serve.