This Easter season, my family decided to celebrate a rudimentary version of a Passover Seder. It wasn’t orthodox by any means (our discount grocery store didn’t carry lamb, so we had pork loin), but we ate foods symbolic of the Exodus and, with an Internet connection at hand, explained the significance of each and our liberation through Christ’s sacrifice. It was a spiritually-rich evening for us and our kids, but ever since then, one phrase from the Haggadah has been ringing continually in my soul.
Once we were slaves. Now we are free.
It makes me think of the state of our world right now, and the many ways there are to be a slave. Contrary to popular belief, literal slavery is not abolished. In fact, there are more slaves now than there have ever been in history. About 20 million (that’s all of New York City) are underage female sex slaves. Make no mistake, God wants this horrific practice stopped, and He is at work to do exactly that. When Christ announced the beginning of his ministry at the synagogue in Galilee, these were the words he chose from Isaiah: “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
But victims of human trafficking are not the only slaves today. The perpetrators are also in bondage. If there are 20 million sex slaves, there are probably an equal number of handlers, and then twice as many “Johns” enslaved to their own lusts. Pornography use is rampant in the world right now, a literal drug that keeps each viewer in emotional, psychological, and spiritual shackles. The equivalent the entire population of Texas is addicted to narcotics in America alone. Around the world, people are slaves to false, demonic religions. You can think you are free, and still be very much a slave.
But before we get complacent, what about us as disciples of Christ? Don’t we sometimes trade in our freedom for bondage? One of the great tragedies of our sin nature is how easily we gravitate towards shackles. Freedom is uncomfortable, terrifying even. When you open the kennel of an abused dog for the first time, it’s not going to come out. As Dostoyevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov, “Never was there anything more unbearable to the human race than personal freedom.”
Aren’t we as believers often slaves to being liked? Slaves to legalistic scruples? Slaves to fear, to money, or to a desire for control? Slaves to being right? Slaves to certain methods of devotion rather than our living Lord? Slaves to our jobs, our kids, our appetites?
Freedom from slavery is not a once and done thing. The life of discipleship is a life of continually identifying and breaking shackles. Let us remember that the Great Commission, in effect, is a rescue mission. If you’ve ever seen The Matrix, it’s a perfect analogy. Let us renew our efforts to seek and liberate all slaves, even the ones who don’t know that’s what they are.
This is the injunction of Passover for us: we need to remember, and then act. We need to remind ourselves, often, of this simple truth: Once we were slaves. Now we are free. Then we go and do for others what was done for us.
Tyler Russell lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Cat, and their 5 children where he teaches high school English and explores the connection between faith and art. His writing has appeared in Apiary Magazine and at RelevantMagazine.com, among others. He and his wife have also recently become active in the fight against human trafficking.