By Rev Canon Dr John Senyonyi
It is reported, “In 1838, on the night when the slaves were set free in Jamaica, a large mahogany coffin was made and a grave was dug. Into that coffin, the liberated slaves threw the reminders of their former life of slavery: whips, torture irons, branding irons, coarse frocks and shirts, large hats, fragments of a treadmill, and handcuffs.
Then the lid of the coffin was screwed down. At the stroke of midnight, the coffin was lowered into the grave and buried. Then the liberated natives sang the doxology:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”
Twenty-five years later, on January 1, 1863, American President Abraham Lincoln signed ‘The Emancipation Proclamation’, to free slaves in the southern rebel Confederate States.
Imagine the joy of freedom for these slaves! Up to this point, all they knew was, they were owned like property and driven like animals, always doing the bidding of their masters. They had never benefited personally from the labour of their hands, but now they were free.
It is also true that even after liberation, some slaves continued with a slave mentality yet freedom was available to all.
The Bible speaks of a graver form of slavery, which is at the heart of human existence, the slavery to sin.
Paul defines it simply. Sin is not being what you were created to be and equally unable to change your condition. Sin has robbed us of God’s original purpose for our lives.
The Bible insists that slavery to sin is both universal and genetic; all have it, all pass it on. It is the root cause of all the ills in society such as racism, tribalism, deceit, sexual immorality, and more. The core problem is not physical illness or poverty or ignorance; these are mere symptoms of sin.
Churches are in error when they replace the Gospel with such political solutions as health and riches, forgetting that the solution to human corruption must address the inherent problem – the tainted nature must die for us to be freed. That is what Christ has done; our corrupt nature was crucified in Him.
The Good News is man can break free from the slavery to sin. For our nature in Christ is not controlled by sin. We do a disservice to our text when we wring out every conceivable meaning from the symbolic language Paul uses about baptism. The core message is about our union with Christ. Baptism reminds us of our status in Jesus: it is death with Christ, burial with Christ, and resurrection with Christ to new life.
Death is a cessation of being, a separation from life. We are divorced from the life of God due to our inherited spiritual death. When we die with Christ, our sinful nature ceases to animate to sin. Thus the Cross (death) of Jesus is the only solution possible and available for us to break the reign of sin in us. The cross liberates from sin because it makes sin impotent.
On the other hand, Christian slavery is our real freedom. When the slavery to sin is broken, our physical existence is henceforth animated by the new life in God.
Paul counsels us: Do not allow your body members to be used for sin, for it is possible to triumph over the unlawful passions of our body. In our Christ-less life, we zealously used our members for sin. We should now give our members to godly living with equal zeal.
There is no excuse for illicit sex or filthy talk or impure thoughts or bad motives and attitudes or hurtful relationships or any raucous behaviour whatsoever. The Christian’s battle cry should be, “Every part of my body is for Jesus, my mind and mouth and actions.”
Finally, sin is a degenerative disease toward death! God does not want to deprive you of any good thing; he wants to give you every good and perfect gift.
Slavery to sin kills the way an Eskimo kills a wolf. First, he coats and completely covers his knife blade with several layers of animal blood, which he allows to freeze. He then plants his knife in the ground with the blade up.
Slavery to sin destroys lives slowly! People are “consumed by their own lusts.” Only God’s grace keeps us from the wolf’s fate. Paul ends with these words, “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Take it for yourself!