Freedom Sunday - Until All Are Free

Story

Read Iqbal Masih Story.

There are 45 million slaves today. 1 out of 3 are children. Iqbal started looming carpet when he was 4, a year younger than my son Dylan. When he should be swimming in summers, flying kites in autumn, he was literally chained to making carpets.

God desires to free all slaves

This I know for sure, God hates slavery. God loves every human being born with the image of God, so God hates slavery that reduces the God-imaged human into a body that can be bought, sold, traded, caged, beat, killed.

God doesn’t want any of his child, 4 or 40, working without break, chained like an animal. Our God says you have to let even cows get their Sabbath. The Sabbath commandment is Emancipation. God hates slavery. Our God liberates slaves.

In fact, God’s first major action after creation was freeing slaves. We call it Exodus. Passover was the final day of liberation. Jews look to this day as the greatest and clearest revelation of God, a God who liberates slaves.

We Christians celebrate Good Easter on Passover. Early Christians saw Christ as the Passover lamb. Early Christians knew that the Jesus story is like the Exodus story except it’s larger. You can’t understand Jesus story until you understand Exodus story, and the Exodus story is freedom story. We don’t understand the freedom of Christ unless we understand the freedom of Exodus. Christian freedom is not the metaphorization or the spirutalization of the emancipation of slaves. Christian freedom is the full extension of the emancipation of slaves. We are freed from sin and death because God also desires to free us from physical slavery which is also a slavery of sin and death.

The call “Until all are free” is the gospel for it is the trumpeting of the heart of God.

Scripture

 

Exodus 6:2-8

2And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the lord.’ 3I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. 4And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. 5You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.

6“Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the lord!’”

 

The revelation of God, who God is, is in the action of God, what God does, and the action of God is to free God’s people from slavery.

Our identity as God’s people traces back to this. I was blind but now I see. I was a slave but now I am free. To be the people of God is to remember that we were once slaves and now we are free and now we are called to free all slaves.

Mishearing

But some say, wait, Jesus said that his Kingdom is not of this world. I mean wasn’t this the mistake of the disciples, thinking Jesus was literally doing what Moses did, and free them from the Roman oppression?

We know how this story is told. The disciples keep asking him, “The Kingdom of Israel now?” And Jesus keeps saying, “Not now.”

Before Jesus was crucified. After Jesus rose. And even to the last day of Jesus here on earth, before he ascended.

-Kingdom now?

-No not now.

They were looking for a physical kingdom But Jesus was speaking about spiritual kingdom. Right?

But there is no such word in the bible, “spiritual kingdom” “spiritual world.” There is Holy Spirit who works in the world through Jesus, through Paul, through Peter, through you to do the work of the Spirit, but there is no spiritual kingdom. There is only the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God is here and coming.

So we pray, “Your Kingdom come, you will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Kingdom of God is how this physical world, all of it, comes under the rule of God, and in the rule of God, there are no kids sold to slavery at 4, no girl forced to have sex 10 times a day.

Then why did Jesus keep telling the disciples, not now?

It’s not because the disciples were thinking too physical but because they were thinking too tribal. They were only thinking of the Kingdom of Israel. They mistook the Kingdom of God to be the Kingdom of Israel. Christ is correcting them. Not now. You don’t understand.

Kingdom of Israel is not true liberation. Kingdom of Israel is just changing of seats, who sits as oppressors, who sits as slaves. Israel will no longer be oppressed but they will rule. Gentiles will serve the Israelites.

The disciples wanted the Romans to serve Israelites. Liberation ossifies into another oppression. This is the way of the world.

But the Kingdom of God is the liberation of all.

The reason why Christ doesn’t just free the body but both body and spirit is because body liberation always become body conquest. Our physical liberation always seems to be a euphemism of conquest. If I am only concerned about my body, then I am going to do everything to make sure my body and those with similar bodies are going to have guaranteed freedom, which mean suppression of other bodies not like mine. In this world, my freedom comes at the suppression of others.

This is most clearly seen in our own declaration of Independence. “All men are free to pursue life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and the wealthy signers could claim such freedom because it came at the cost of enslaving black bodies.

My freedom to choose between two cheap rugs come from the oppression of Pakistani children chained to a post so they make rugs from sunrise to sundown. My freedom to choose what to buy comes at the cost of chaining kids. My freedom is another’s oppression.

This is why the Kingdom of God is more than just physical liberation. This is why the Kingdom of God means spiritual freedom too because only those who are spiritually free can overcome the sin of fear and selfishness, to live lives of service and sacrifice which will be the only way that all can be free.

Thus Jesus says to his disciples body-only focused, tribal mentality, “No, but wait for when the Holy Spirit comes, you will have power. And then you will be my witnesses. Not my soldiers, my witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus means to free everyone. To free everyone you must free the whole person. Indeed, Christ is greater than Moses as Moses prophesied. Christ is extending the Exodus to everyone.

Freedom of the whole person is the freedom of everybody. Until all are free is the gospel call.

Paul

Paul said, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, men nor women, free nor slave for all are one in Christ.”

Jew, Greek, all these are body identities. In Christ, they are transcended by deeper identity. We are one in Christ, so no longer will we be divided by body politics.

There are no slaves in Christ. Which means there should be no slave in this God-created, God-breathed earth of ours . The whole earth is the Lords. The whole earth is God’s Kingdom. Till all are free.

 

Why we don’t take action

 

Okay, so how many slaves?

45 million

Didn’t Moses have like half-a-million. Even that’s a lot. But 45 million? That is so overwhelming? What can we do?

Especially because of the condition of the human heart.  How can we curb the human heart? If we free one, another will be picked off the street.

I am aware of the sentiment. This was how the Israelites felt when they first heart Moses. They would have laughed at his claim that God was going to free them, except they were just too tired to laugh.

Exodus 6:9

9So Moses told the people of Israel what the lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.

 

This week I was putting down our yard signs. The gas station clerk screamed at me, “Get that out of my property.”

I said, “It’s not on your property, It’s on the sidewalk.”

She gives another look. “Oh, sorry.” She lights up a cigarette, “couldn’t see from here.”

I give her an invite card, “Did you know there are 45 million slaves?”

“What can you do about it?” she says as she exhales some tar.

What can you do about it?

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The people are discouraged. So we go on with our lives. I wonder if we seek a comfortable existence because we have given into discouragement. If we can change the world, why wouldn’t we? If our sacrifice can save a life, why wouldn’t we? Are we more focused on the next car model we want to upgrade to because we live lives of quiet desperation. We have given up because we are too discouraged.

It is true, the problem before us is huge.

The Jews have been slaves for 400 years. These people Moses is speaking to were born slaves. When their fathers shared their life story, it was about being born a slave. When they visited with their grandma and asked her for a story, grandma told them of how she was born a slave.
Can you blame them? They were discouraged. They didn’t believe slavery could end.

-Sam, I though slavery was abolished January 1st, 1863. It is 2016 and you are telling me there are 45 million slaves? Slavery will be with us forever. It is impossible for us.

You are right. It is impossible for us. But what is impossible with us is possible with God.

And this is what it means to believe in the power of the gospel! Can the gospel free the slave? All slaves?

When Paul says in Romans, the gospel is the power to save the Jews and the Gentiles, what he was asking was do you believe that the gospel is so powerful that Jews and Gentiles who hate each other can actually live together and be one family in the Church of Christ?

Can blacks and whites be one family in the Church of God. Can the gospel do that?

When Paul says in Christ, there is master or slave, he is saying can the gospel create a community where there is no more such category because all are free. Can the gospel do that? Do you believe in that gospel?

This is the real test of faith for us, isn’t it. Do you really believe the gospel can change the world?

In one sense, can Christ save my soul is easier to believe than can Christ save the world. But if we believe Christ can save my soul but not the world then isn’t that escapism? That isn’t the gospel is it?

The gospel is Christ has reconciled the world. The gospel is that Christ rules the world as the head of the Church, the Church being the foretaste, the proof of what the world under Christ’s rule look like.

Church, the gospel can free every slave.

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See the Reality

And that belief gives us the courage to see the truth of things. We are confident, we are ready to see how hard it is. Because we know the situation can be changed we are ready to see the ugliness of the situation.

The person of faith is the only true realist.

The pessimist will always ignore the real facts. The pessimist chooses not to see the causes of slavery because slavery is impossible to eradicate. The pessimist chooses not to see it, because he can’t do anything about it anyway.

So in this way faith leads to actions. Discouragement mires us inaction.

Slavery is not going to end by itself. Slavery is going to end when people of faith take action against concrete causes of slavery.

Exodus was an amazing liberation because God’s action was evident. God wanted to make his power evident so he made sure there was no sword drawn. But God’s 10 plagues were purposeful and systematic. The ten plagues were very methodical implementation. It was a way for God to challenge every power system of Egypt.

The rod turn snake, magic. They wowed people by magic. Moses’ snake swallows the Egyptian snake, miracle over magic, miracle God’s power, magic human deception. God’s power overcomes.

Nile, the very lifeblood of Egypt. God turns that into blood, makes Nile useless. Every system.

The last one. The first born of Egyptians life taken. Taken for they took the children of Israel. It was a harsh form of justice but the form of justice they understood. Every first son taken from Pharaoh to the Egyptian peasant, that before God, Pharaoh is no different than the peasant. Pharaoh is not a god. Before God both the Pharaoh and peasant stands under judgment. All Egyptian system of power dismantled.

Causes of Modern Day Slavery

“They know their business inside out and respond to changes in the market with a speed unmatched by even the most competitive corporations. Their expertise and ability to exploit the market are surpassed only by their disregard for human life. Women are bought, sold and hired out like any other product. The bottom line is profit.”

~ Anna Diamantopoulou, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs

These are the three root causes of modern slavery:

·         The ready market for cheap labor and goods.

·         Poverty and desperation which maintain a pool of vulnerable victims.

·         A culture that disregards human life, especially the poor, children and women.

What can we do?

 

Moses understands the despair of his people. When God first called Moses to free the slaves, Moses made up all sorts of excuses. He thought it was impossible.

He said, after all, I am just a shepherd.

God said, well what do you have in your hand?

-a staff

-throw it down

And it became a snake.

And the staff did more than just become a snake. It split the red sea.

What can we do? Whatever is in our hands.

These are the things we can do.

Consume Ethically

Consume ethically. Support the Fair Trade movement. Look at labels. Learn about product categories that have issues with elements in their supply chain. Shop with a conscience seeking the highest level of assurance available that your dollars are not supporting slavery.

Report Human Trafficking

Learn to recognize and report possible incidents of human trafficking. The rescue of many victims has begun with a report from an alert concerned citizen. The 24 hour hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is 1.888.3737.888

Become a Freedom Partner

$24 a month. I don’t want us to think that we have this luxury by the strength of our morals and diligence of work. Sure we worked hard, but we worked in a soil made fertile by many others who cannot enjoy the benefits of their labor. The luxuries of our world is often bought at the price of slavery of others. So when we chose to pay $24 a month, we are not being generous, we are taking a step towards being just. We are sharing what should have been share in the first place.

Become an Advocate

In the International Justice Mission website, you can click “Get Inolved.” There you can sign up to be an advocate. As an advocate you will be given more info on how your local advocacy to local politicians can be translated into national and international action. U.S. is a super power. As a U.S. citizen you do have a voice on where U.S. will lean it’s weigh.

Join IJM

You can join a team. It is a large organization which means it needs all sorts of skills. It’s headquarter is in Washington D.C. but there are many offices.

Pra