We don't have to use the image of slavery to illustrate what is happening to us as a people; that's just one of the images that the Bible uses. We might use any number of other illustrations more contemporary to our present times.
We could note that we are hostages, living under the constant threat and powerful control of a world that would have us be anything but free. Then Jesus comes in, not as a hostage negotiator, but as a renegade. He neutralizes the threat, releases the hostages, and we shout for joy at being freed. ...then we go and put an offer on the very house where we were held hostage, all-too-willing to make these haunted halls our home, to make this atrocity our address. When guests come over, they ask, "How did you ever come to live in a place like this?" Well, we say, once upon a time, I was a hostage here. But I've been set free!
It doesn't make any sense.
Or a better image even still - we could say that we are prisoners, wrongly convicted. We could talk about all the time we've spent behind bars, the years we've accrued here. Then the Judge Himself comes by in person to give us the good news: our case has been revisited; we have been exonerated. We are free to go. But then the doors don't open right away, the bars don't fall down. And yet, here we stand with a big, stupid grin plastered across our faces. We are free! We stretch our hands through the bars and clasp our fingers together and breathe a big sigh of relief. Free, indeed....
And we're content to do all this. We're content to live this way - as slaves, as hostages, as prisoners, even while we continue to tell people we are free. Even while we continue to dance and to celebrate our newfound freedom in Christ. It's not that we don't hear our chains rattling, our ghosts calling, or our bars clanking; it's that we don't think it matters any more. It's that we're so assured of our future freedom that we don't even seem to mind that right now, we're still something far less than free.
Even though we've been bought. Even though we've been rescued. Even though we've been released. We are a free people living in bondage, willingly, and we're telling people this is good.
We're telling them that this is what Jesus does.
This is not what Jesus does.
Heaven...heaven is only part of the plan. When we read through the Gospels, we get a very clear sense of what Jesus is doing here, what Jesus is doing now. Yes, He talks about the promise of Heaven. Yes, He foreshadows that great day to come. Yes, He speaks of the freedom, the redemption, the mercy to come.
But He also heals the blind man. He opens the ears of the deaf man. He makes the lame to walk again and the mute to speak. He casts down the mighty and raises up the broken-hearted and calls the dead to life again. And every time He does this, it actually happens. These men and women, these blind men and sinners do not have to wait for some future day when all that Jesus has promised will come true; it's coming true now.
The blind man doesn't continue to stumble around. Why would he? He can see! The deaf man doesn't pretend that he can't hear. Why would he? The music of creation is glorious! The lame do not drag themselves around on limp legs; they walk tall. Of course they do! The woman with the issue of blood does not continue to isolate herself from the community; she's clean now, through and through. Why would she continue to live as though she weren't?
And yet we, we who claim to know so much about this Jesus, we who have witnessed truly remarkable things from Him, we who know the power with which He speaks, loves, heals, walks...we are content to cry out, We're free!
...even as our chains rattle....