Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Slave children, freeborn children

Read Romans 8:8-17

There are many sins against human dignity, but slavery has to rank among the worst. To consider a human being as the possession of another; to accept as normal the idea that a human being should serve another without freedom of thought, movement or will; to reduce a human being to a shadow of what it means to be human: all of this is truly a crime against humanity itself.

Unfortunately, slavery has been part of the human fabric since the beginning of society. In the time of Jesus, it was an accepted institution, particularly among the Romans and Greeks. Many of these slaves who lived in a situation of continual fear and uncertainty were bound to react positively to the message of the Gospel. For them, the idea that all people had dignity and worth was truly Good News.

Paul contrasts the situation of the slave with that of the child of a freeborn man. This child is free, cherished by parents, loved by family, destined to inherit the father’s wealth. What a contrast with the slave who lives in the same house, yet has no freedom, is cherished by no one, has no family, is destined to poverty throughout life.

Paul affirms that those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. They do not relate to God as slaves to a master, but as children to their loving, caring parents. They know they are protected and cherished. And they are destined to inherit their Father’s wealth, which is eternal life itself.

The Spirit leads us out of slavery into freedom. Slavery to whom? Actually, we are slaves to ourselves: to our passions, our needs, our insecurities and our obsessions. Paul calls this “the flesh.” It’s a symbol for him of everything that drags us down and stops us from being truly free.

If we remain enslaved to “the flesh,” then there is no hope for us: we are doomed to death. If, on the other hand, we open our hearts to God’s Spirit, leaving behind us the allure of “the flesh,” then we are promised to life, life to the full, life without end.

On Pentecost, the Spirit came down on the apostles and set them on fire. This same Spirit is offered to us today: a Spirit of truth and love, a Spirit that leads us out of slavery and fear and into life. Let us therefore celebrate the Spirit. And pray for the Spirit. And live in the Spirit.

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