Slavery – here and now!
William Wilberforce – his name is everywhere. No doubt you could sit a GCSE exam on him and pass with an A* because you’ve read or heard so much.
OK; most of us are glad that our nation abolished slavery 200 years ago. But then we realise that slavery went on for many years after abolition – and we hang our heads in shame.
So we all end up with sore necks. But what difference does it make to us today? Well, it might help us recognise something about our society today – slavery is alive and well in our land in 2007!
Slaves to what?
I’m not rambling on about people-trafficking or low-paid workers, though those are real problems. No, I’m talking about ourselves! Outrage. ‘I’m no slave!’ you cry. Well, yes, we do live in a democracy and our government doesn’t enslave us. The media would never let it happen, right? We’re free in an outward sense, yes, but not in our hearts. The Bible says we are by nature slaves to sin.
‘Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves as slaves to obey you are [his] slaves? … you presented your members [bodies and minds] as slaves of uncleanness and of lawlessness …’ (Romans 6:16-23). We all suffer from soul-slavery unless we are set free!
As a result, says Paul, ‘you were dead in your transgressions and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1-3; read it!). We’re not only slaves but dead slaves – morally and spiritually dead.
That’s not asleep, or drowsy, or lacking energy. You can’t play tennis with a dead body. When you’re dead you’re dead. We are slaves to sin and cannot break free because we are spiritually dead.
What can we do?
So what can we do? There are many things we can do. We can read a book; eat sausage and chips; go for a walk in the park; buy dinner for our girlfriends. But one thing we can never do is come to life and free ourselves from slavery. A dead man just hasn’t got what it takes.
But what can God do? Although I could do nothing to free myself from slavery to sin, God could and he did! Listen to this: ‘because of his great love for us God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved’ (Ephesians 2:4-5).
That passage goes on. Because God loved us, he sent his Son to die for us and his Holy Spirit to make us alive in Christ. We have to turn from our sin and put our faith in Jesus Christ – but even our faith comes to us as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8; we’re dead, remember, until God gets involved).
The result of God’s grace? We who believe are God’s ‘workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10). Now that’s real freedom.