If People Are Free, Then We Will Preach Bondage


The wonderful and always worth listening to MockingCast had a recent episode that in part highlighted why the Gospel message is one of freedom. One of the co-hosts, RJ, stated that if you believe that people are in bondage then you will preach liberation and if you believe that people are free you will preach bondage.

Sit with this little insight for a moment. Consider the Container Store. It is an entire store profiting on the idea that you and I are so free in our lives that we are willing to pay for some plastic containers that can bind up our cabinets and closets. We pay for calendars and schedules that bind us to our commitments and responsibilities. How many diets are preached that are built around binding you from eating certain things? In a land of plenty of food where we are free to eat whatever and whenever we want, we do not know how to handle it. So we pay for some binding. Sometimes freedom is so open that we are prone to wander, prone to leave that which we love.

The gospel of binding is all around us because we are under the impression that we are too free.

This bleeds into church messages. Often churches will craft messages in ways that assume that people are too free and what people need is to be bound up. They need to be bound in what to believe. Bound to follow laws or rules. Bound to action and inaction. If our messages are help bind people, it could be that we believe that people are too free.

Conversely, if we craft messages that are meant to liberate people it is because it is assumed that people are not free at all. Jesus preaches and teaches in such a way that assumes that people are bound and they need liberation. He does not give more rules to follow - in fact he speaks of only two. He preaches release of the captives and the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus preaches and teaches one of liberation because he knows the people are too bound. But it not just humans that are too bound. When given the choice to liberate or bind the demons living in a man in Mark 5, Jesus liberates the demons to go into the swine. Jesus saw that even the demons were bound and needed liberation, and so he extends mercy to allow them to enter into the swine.

This does not mean Jesus’ message is without binding. Far from it. In the moment of glory, Jesus allows himself to handed over to a people who believed he was too free, and they tried to silence him by binding him to the cross.

If we believe that people are bound then we will preach liberation. When we preach liberation, the powers and principality that are dependent upon our bondage will come for us. These powers will seek to discredit, shame, bind and even kill the one who assumes that people are in bondage.

No wonder so many of us would rather wave flags and banners proclaiming how free we all are. In our chants of freedom we are blind to the ways we are in bondage. In our assumptions that people are free our messages become binding and restrictive.

In a bit of tragic irony, when we assume people are free, we have liberated ourselves from receiving the True freedom that comes from God in Christ. And we remain in bondage, assuming we are free.

Easter Echos Genesis? Sure. But, Don't Overlook Exodus Echos.

It is a common (and frankly very good) on Easter Sunday to explore the echos of a new creation being born with the raising of Jesus Christ (here is a great sermon by my co-pastor on this very idea. Here is another sermon by a friend on this idea). The Gospel of John has many callbacks to the book of Genesis found in the Resurrection story. Here are a few of the more obvious: 

  • It was the first day of the week (in the beginning)
  • It was still dark (the light had not come yet)
  • Jesus and Mary (man and woman) are in a garden
  • Jesus is seen as a gardener (God as creator)

All of this, and much more in the story, points to the resurrection of Jesus marking the beginning of a new creation. If we are in a place where we long for a fresh start, a new beginning and a rebirth or renewal, then Easter as a new creation is Good News. 

I would take a moment to point out that Genesis is not the only book that the Resurrection story in the Gospel of John echos. Looking at the same story, but through the eyes of Exodus, we can see Easter as a new liberation. Here are some (possible) overt connections:

  • The whole story begins with the Passover feast (perhaps the most obvious connection)
  • At the tomb, there are two angels, one at the head and one at the foot, of where Jesus was laid (similar to the arc of the covenant with two angels forming the seat of God)
  • People bow down to enter the tomb (the High Priest would bow prior to entering the Holy of Holies)
  • There was a thick curtain that marked off the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary space (not unlike a tome with a rock placed in front of it)

Of course there are the other connections of Jesus to Moses in other parts of the Gospel, but none more world changing than the connection that, like Moses, Jesus liberates us. While the story of Moses highlights the liberation from slavery, the story of Jesus highlights the liberation from slavery to sin and death.

Yes, the echos of Genesis are present and strong in the Easter story, but don't overlook the Exodus echos. Don't overlook the Good News that God is not only doing a "new thing" but is also working to liberate us from the "old thing". It is very difficult to live in the new when we hold onto the old (thus Jesus tells Mary not to hold onto him in the Easter story).