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Sunday 28 June 2020 Message Supplement: “True Liberty”

Today’s topic is freedom from both literal and spiritual slavery, based on the lectionary text from Romans 6:12-23: “Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions” (Romans 6:12).

Slavery is a form of captivity that has long plagued humanity. To the surprise of many modern Christians, slavery is condoned in both the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, people who remain sympathetic to the idea of biblical authority and that the Bible can’t be wrong create for themselves a fatal quandary. For one, it is impossible to enslave human beings and still claim to represent morality and humanitarianism. Even more so, there is no way to reconcile Jesus’ gospel of loving your neighbor as yourself with either the concept or practice of slavery.

The United States endured a Civil War 1861 – 1865 over the issue of states’ rights to enslave Africans. The military victory over Confederate culture and the struggle against racism in northern states has been incomplete and tenuous because the Civil War was also a struggle against the biblical worldview supporting slavery and racial superiority. So the conflict isn’t just political, economic, or geographic because it is also against a virus of the mind, an entrenched religious mindset suggesting that God has ever supported slavery.

Slavery was outlawed by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution but generations of Jim Crow laws fueled by discrimination and prejudice continue to propagate a slave / master mentality. This is the season of recognizing America’s freedom by celebrating the Declaration of Independence and remembrance of the Revolutionary War against England. Along with 4th of July festivities it is incumbent upon God’s people to reject racial injustices. Hatred that denies civil rights to African Americans and other minorities is always unacceptable. It is never right to make certain categories of people into either slaves or second-class citizens.

Politicians who engage in voter suppression and who try to keep people from participating in democracy and equal justice under the law must be stopped. God is not pleased when blatant hypocrites who call upon the Almighty’s name to forgive their sins are themselves unapologetically contributing to the denigration and dehumanization of other human beings.

Followers of God have a duty to help set people free from all sorts of slavery, including literal servitude where humans are bought, sold and traded like farm animals. There’s also the struggle against other forms of slavery such as authoritarianism and demagoguery which, like a Covid-19 pandemic, similarly paralyze a nation.

Many people in contemporary America face a modern version of ages-old racial prejudice. It is dangerous for democracy and the rule of law when leaders exploit peoples’ fear, ignorance and anger (the unholy trinity). The ills of society are often blamed on minority and vulnerable populations, who also often lack resources to be heard. America can never achieve its noble ideas until there is a permanent, dramatic decrease in the pernicious toxin of racism.

Paul the apostle lived in a time when slavery was accepted as an unalterable fact, woven into the DNA of a brutal society. Even Paul’s implicit endorsement of literal slavery needn’t disqualify his warning against sin slavery. Slavery to a thing, idea or behavior that hurts you is as much a threat as someone holding your body captive like a literal slave on a plantation. God wants us to be free from all that would crush body or spirit.

Returning to Paul’s emphasis, consider that a person’s self-destructive thinking and living are a form of slavery binding them to the darkness that lay within: “But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

Authentic Christians have a responsibility to share God’s truth against all forms of slavery. God redeems people from not only the classic version of plantation slavery but also from the slavery of destructive living: “But now you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life” (Romans 6:22). Do you feel free from the power of darkness and negativity? Are you liberated from all that would enslave you?

We at St. John encourage people to choose the freedom of light and life rather than the slavery of darkness and death. St. John’s mission is directed to help people achieve the total freedom of spirit and body. Do you feel free to be all that God is inviting you to become?  If not, seek discernment about what might be holding you back from realizing God’s promises.

You are invited to treat all human beings as you would like them to treat you (this is the almighty Golden Rule). Jesus’ words echo through the ages, reminding people of good conscience that the principle of love is the greatest, that with love all things are possible and without love nothing else matters.

Do you feel free? Are you experiencing God’s love that will unchain you from both earthly and spiritual bondage? Enjoy spiritual independence by receiving and sharing God’s redemptive love. Declare your spiritual liberty and celebrate true freedom.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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