Running Back to Bondage

In their book Religion in America, Winthrop S. Hudson & John Corrigan include a quote by Ezra Stiles in 1760, talking about the need to protect religious liberty in America:

The right of conscience and private judgment is unalienable; and it is truly the interest of all mankind to unite themselves into one body for the liberty, free exercise, and unmolested enjoyment of this right. … And being possessed of the precious jewel of religious liberty, a jewel of inestimable worth, let us prize it highly and esteem it too dear to be parted with on any terms lest we be again entangled with that yoke of bondage which our fathers could not, would not, and God grant that we may never, submit to bear. … Let the grand errand into America never be forgotten.

Stiles and others of his time were arguing against those in the new America who believed that the country would be best served establishing a state religion.  They wanted to make America like the countries of Europe from which many had left to come to the new world.  Of course, many had left Europe in the first place because of religious persecution, and it was the promise of being able to worship as they were called and led to worship that brought them to these shores.

This week, we celebrate not only religious freedom but all the freedoms which this country was founded upon and which so many have lived and died to protect.  However, it occurs to me as I read these words from Stiles that there seems to be something within the human conscience that, while craving and celebrating freedom, still feels a tempting tug towards enslavement.

Whether we are talking about the addiction of drugs or alcohol or the peer pressure to “fit in” or the belief that faith should be legislatively forced upon others, our nature will at times try to argue with us, telling us that we would be better off as slaves.  We see it even in Scripture.  In Exodus 16, just a few verses after God brings the Israel through the Red Sea, the people complain that they would have been better off remaining slaves in Egypt that moving freely towards their new home.  The temptation of bondage is that it claims to be easier, and answers and solutions to problems seem simpler.  Of course, they are simpler because there are usually fewer options to choose from, and what options there are only serve to further enslave us.

Jesus said to his disciples, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. … So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-32, 36).  This freedom that Christ brings produces love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Do the other powers we would enslave ourselves to produce such fruit?

Where in your life are you being tempted to forsake freedom for bondage?  Examine your heart, and claim the words of Paul in Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”