Sunday, March 26, 2017

Enslaved Freemen

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Are you free, or are you a slave?

It’s a question that seems a bit ridiculous in our society. We have abolished slavery about two hundred years ago. It’s horrible to say that slavery is still going strong in some places of the world. It is a Christian’s duty to free the oppressed, so we must work and pray for an ending of all forms of slavery in this world.

Yet, it’s all very well freeing someone from one form of slavery, but do we release them into another? a slavery in which we, too, are slaves.


In the West, we bang on and on about freedom and having the right to do this and that. We are our own people: no-one owns us; no-one forces us to do what they want us to do; no-one stops us from doing what we want to do. Well, we are free, just as long as we don’t break the Law. And of course, we can’t just take a day off work when we feel like it, otherwise we lose our jobs. And we’ve got to pay taxes.

Do all these constraints make us slaves to the society around us? Are we owned by the country?


When St Paul talks of slave and free, he is referring to the Law of the Old Testament. Many Jewish Christians are going around the countries that St Paul is visiting, and telling the Christians in those countries that they still need to obey all of the old Jewish laws. St Paul is clear: those who obey the Jewish Law are like Agar, the slave of Abraham who bears him Ishmael. Those who accept that the Law is perfectly fulfilled in Our Lord Jesus are like Sarah, Abraham’s freeborn wife and mother of Isaac. Ishmael is a slave; Isaac is free. Their descendants are the same.

Thus, St Paul tells us that we are not meant to be slaves, but free people whose lives are not governed by laws, but by love. We are not bound by laws because we seek only the right things that come from God. But if He owns us, aren’t we His slaves?


No. We always have a choice to obey Him or not. We just have to take the consequences of our obedience or disobedience. We are His children, and He owns us in that sense, not in a legal sense of the word. We are always free in God.

We are, of course, bound by the laws of the land. We are also bound by the laws of physics, but they have no right over us. Look at how Our Lord bends the laws of physics as we know them. Five loaves and two fish fill twelve baskets after five-thousand have dined. God even frees us from the slavery of this world’s thinking.

We hear learned professors say, “men do not rise from the dead.” Our Lord Jesus just stands there with a smile on His face with the wounds on His body clearly visible. He has no need to say anything.


All we have to do is believe in God and learn to trust Him more in our lives. We need to free ourselves from a scientific way of thinking that denies God’s mastery over the Cosmos. We need to free ourselves from a society that demands that we must all think the same way. We need to help free others who are in so many forms of slavery.

This Lent, we need to identify the slavery that prevents us from being true children of God. Then, on the Day of Resurrection, we shall indeed glimpse our freedom afresh.

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