“The Paradox of Peace and Power” – compiled by Peg Syverson
My little brother, six inches taller than me with biceps the size of my quads, ordered our family a copy of this book of articles written by his rhetoric class. His article – “Jesus Christ, Peaceful Power, and Us” – was a poor choice of pre-bedtime reading because it is a beautifully-written and evocative window of revelation. It sent my mind in a whirlwind of thought (and my body on a lengthy quest for sleep). He wrote on Matthew 5: 38-44 where Jesus exhorts us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, ultimately arguing for non-violent resistance against evil.
As I finished his article, I was reminded of Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
The thing is – we all have a master. We are all a slave to something. As Tim’s article illustrates – we can be slaves to retaliation, slaves to instinctive reactions of anger and vengeance. Titus 3:3 tells us that “we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
We cannot serve two masters – we can only serve one. So many friends, philosophers, family members are turned off to the idea of Christianity and submitting to a “set of rules.” Alas – this could not be more false. Even if we don’t recognize it, we have all submitted to something. We have submitted to our own passions and whims.
When I was in the thick of disordered eating, I felt a slave to food. My mind dwelled on little else – it motivated everything I did. I lived in literal fear of when my mind would flip and not rest until I drowned the sensation in food, knowing that as soon as I stopped eating I would feel the pain and discomfort and guilt that would persist long after.
We are slaves to comfort, slaves to lust, slaves to instant gratification, slaves to substance abuse, slaves to approval. Not some of us – all of us. That is why Galatians 5:1 tells us that “for freedom Christ has set us free: stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Christ died for us that we might be free of this slavery to the passions of the flesh – slavery to sin.
“But thanks to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:17-18. Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light – because slavery to Him is slavery to freedom.
Slavery to freedom? It’s a beautiful paradox. For we are all slaves to something, but what if we were eternally tethered to the God of love? Letting His goodness, like a fetter, bind our wandering hearts to Him? He sent His son to die for us so that we can be set free of the sin that rules our lives, our thoughts, our hearts, and become bondservants to the light and lovely burden of freedom in Christ.
As I wrap up my revelation of the paradox of freedom and slavery, I’m remembering a theme from the Tolkein books. Yesterday, as my family saw the third and final “Hobbit” (sidenote: Mom managed to fall asleep and was caught snoring during an epic battle scene) the ring vividly illustrated sin nature. Every time we put on sin, we indulge our thoughts and our actions, we become increasingly drawn to sin – the way Smeagol, Bilbo, eventually Frodo would become completely engrossed by the ring. It governed their thoughts and actions – slowly drawing their bodies into the depravity that Gollum depicts. We tune our hearts to sing the instant gratification of sin, which seems harmless and even beneficial at the time. Satan is sly and sneaky – the great deceiver. But Jesus is good – He is the true and better master.