There are times when life feels really, really nice. Wendy and I helped introduce roughly 197 InterVarsity students to the Morton Pumpkin Festival when Megan and Alex brought them in on Friday night to experience the wonder, and that’s always fun (though I never did get to drive my bumper car this year). Then we had more fun the next morning with the kids (and our godchildren, Olivia and Philip) grabbing tons of candy and catching my annual Frisbee from Keith Sommer at the parade.
But maybe more to the point, I don’t have a migraine.
If you hadn’t heard, I’d been fighting a migraine off-and-on for almost two weeks, popping Excedrin like I owned stock in the company. On Wednesday evening, even the light in the Youth Room was painful. So I was a little concerned about sitting in the sunlight for a couple of hours on Saturday morning to wait for the bagpipers to come along in the parade. But God is good, and I felt quite a bit better this weekend -- so thank you for everyone who had been praying for me.
The reason that I even go into all of that is to remind us all that so much of what we deal with in our lives is relative to our basic perspectives on things. A Pumpkin Festival with your children can be a blast if you’re coming at it from a good frame of mind, but torturous if you’re in a bad mood or physically ill. Just like a sunny day can be refreshing if you’re feeling bright and happy, but painful if you’re suffering from a migraine.
Think about the concept of slavery, of bondage to something or someone other than yourself. The truth is, the Bible’s pretty clear that we’re always going to make ourselves servants to someone or something in this life -- whether that’s to a career, or to the acquisition of this or that, or to our sinful natures in general, or to our Saviour (who should be our Lord). Freedom isn’t really having no master -- it’s having the opportunity to choose for yourself which master you’ll serve, and why.
Thus, in the book of Philemon for instance, Paul could be chained up in a Roman prison and yet joyfully consider himself a prisoner of Christ rather than a prisoner of Rome. Our hearts and minds can be free to choose God, even when our life situation seemingly shackles us otherwise -- or, conversely, we can consider ourselves totally free to make whatever choices we want in life, and yet actually live in continual bondage to the cravings and dominations of our fleshly natures. An amazingly consistent amount of time, bondage is far more an internal condition than an external one -- a paradigm binding your mind and heart and soul rather than a physical chain binding your body.
Think of Philemon himself. Paul asked him to receive his escaped slave, Onesimus, back as a brother in Christ -- to be restored not as property, but as an equal part of the family of God. So who was actually in bondage in this little letter? Paul, chained to a Roman? Onesimus, the returning slave? Or Philemon, bound to the bitterness that comes from being unable to forgive the way that we’ve been forgiven by Christ?
Do you have an Onesimus in your life that you have trouble forgiving? Or have you found yourself struggling with some other personal bondage altogether?
What master are you going to choose to follow today?