We don’t like to think about being a prisoner. As Americans we bridle against anything that affects our freedom, our “rights.” As Christians we proclaim that we have “freedom in Christ,” Gal 2:4; 5:1,13. Maybe we were once “slaves of sin,” Rom 6:16-18, but no longer—we are free, free, free!
Let’s just assume that we are free from sin, that we overcome more often than not, that it certainly isn’t a habit any longer. Oh, if that were the only thing we needed to free ourselves of.
Far too many I know are still slaves of others’ opinions, of some rigid sense of dignity, and of an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy when confronted once again with the mercy of a loving God.
Being inordinately worried about what others think is simply a brand of egotism. We are placing our own expectations of them on a pedestal. We are afraid of what they think about us, when they probably don’t think about us one way or the other. Yet we hear one statement, view one action, and suddenly we concoct a whole scenario about their opinions of us that may or may not be—in fact, probably is not—true. It rolls around in our minds over and over to the point that we cannot sleep, cannot eat, or even make ourselves sick over it. What did Jesus say to Peter when he asked about John’s future? “What is that to you?” We would do well to remember that line far more often than we do. Stop being taken prisoner by others. Fulfill your obligations to them, but do not try to take responsibility for theirs. “What is that to you?”
And then we find ourselves in the prison of dignity. I vividly remember walking through the Philadelphia Zoo on the first weekend of our honeymoon. It started to rain, and I was busy trying to find shelter “so my hair won’t get wet,” I told Keith.
“Who cares if your hair gets wet?” he asked as he grabbed my hand and we went running down the sidewalk in the rain. We found our way back to our midtown hotel drenched, but laughing all the way. When your dignity keeps you from enjoying life, from playing with your children, from worshipping your God, it’s time you let yourself out of prison.
But the most ironic slavery we have placed ourselves in is also the saddest. Here we have a God who loves us enough to die for us, yet we tie ourselves up in knots over our inability to repay Him. Instead of joy over our salvation, we cringe when we think of our unworthiness. We try and try and try to be perfect, always knowing it’s an impossible task, and so “hope,” instead of being the “full assurance” the New Testament teaches us, becomes a miserable “maybe.” We find ourselves praying that when we die we will see it coming so we can fire off one last frantic prayer for forgiveness.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, 2 Cor 3:17. Funny how some of these people who spend so much time worrying about whether they “do” enough for the Lord are some of the very ones who talk the most about the Holy Spirit. My Bible says their fretting is a sure sign they don’t have the Spirit.
The New Testament plainly teaches that we are to have self-control. That doesn’t just apply to alcohol, drugs, gluttony, sexual immorality, and the other “fleshly” sins. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved, 2 Pet 2:19. Did you catch that? It can be anything, whether sinful or not. A relationship, an attitude, a habit, your upbringing, your past mistakes--whatever controls your life makes you its slave—its prisoner.
Let it go. There is truly only one Master worth serving.
"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are expedient. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything, 1 Corinthians 6:12.