1Corinthians:7:21Were you a slave when called? Never mind. But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity. 22For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ.
23You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
24So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God.
If I told you there is no such thing as a caged bird ( bird being metaphoric here for body and soul ) no matter how harsh the conditions would you believe me? You might say well…. “It’s not natural or possible not to feel upset when behind bars or to be at the mercy of someone who beats you daily like these slaves” but it really is when one is rooted in Christ. It’s really possible to be free and to be happy in any situation. Some of you may see the idea that someone can be happy all the time and that a Christian life without struggle or emotional hardship would mean to live in state of spiritual delusion. Hey…maybe you are right but although there is struggle ( and I don’t deny this ) we must admit that its how we behave in times of struggle that separates the free from the slave, and how we get through that struggle.
There is a way the worldly unspiritual person would behave towards struggle and there is the way the Godly and Holy person would. The worldly response is often periods of despair and anger. Someone beating you with a stick and thoughts of revenge and hatred flood your very being at night as you lay in bed and think about your attacker. If this is our response then we have quite rightly as St.Paul requests we don’t do “become slaves of men”. When we behave like this towards such struggle we have become enslaved to the world and whether we be in prison or on the outside we are really in a much greater prison than we think.
Jesus experienced this struggle in the garden of Gethsemane and we find that agony in the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. We see that Jesus wept, he experienced pain. But being God the absence of sin would mean that his weeping and sorrow was different than our sorrow and the same goes for Our Lady who was without sin. It was a different sorrow than that of the world wasn’t it? I do believe St.John of the Cross once called it a sorrow mingled with joy. In other words the sorrow is there but its a supernatural sorrow, a real pure and Holy sorrow that is full of Love and compassion. This is in huge contrast to the very different one of despair and depression that is mingled with revenge and hatred that we spoke of earlier isn’t it?
How about this story. This is a true story recorded of many Christians thrown to the lions in the colosseum but for the life of me I cannot think of where I heard it and I don’t have a reference now so if you have please do share. The story goes that they were thrown to the lions and were at the mercy of the gladiators and they were so full of ecstasy and grace of God that they willingly put the swords of the gladiators to their throats. Wow! No sorrow, no pain? Surely there was pain and sorrow of a different kind ….there must have been but look at how they dealt with it? Totally detached from the world, full of The Holy Spirit and faith in God. I think they are but one example of what freedom in Christ really means and what it is. Could we call that a state of spiritual delusion? I think not.
It really proves that the closer we come to God, the closer we come to understanding perhaps what St.Paul means when he instructs us not to “become slaves of men” or slaves of the world if you want to elaborate on it. It’s that kind of flipping upside down of the very world we were brought up in that reveals to us that by becoming slaves to Christ we are made free men. Elsewhere in scripture St.Paul tells us he has learned to be happy when he has plenty and when he has nothing. No anxiety, no worry for tomorrow, totally detached from all the worldly emotions of the world that keep us in the dark from ever seeing the light of freedom and knowing Christ.
I bet that somewhere in the world there is a Christian suffering imprisonment that we don’t know about. There he is totally detached like St.Paul in chains and although they can chain up his body they cannot chain up his happiness and freedom. They can’t take this away. He is a freeman no matter what trials come upon him he is happy. Yet there are popular celebrities in their limos, going back to their mansions and comfortable beds but they suffer with depression, they are often full of anxiety and worry and are afraid of death and far from God. They throw tantrums like children when someone tells them they don’t like their new hair do. I wonder….who is the freer man? Who is more enslaved than the other? In fact…who would you rather be? The man in a dark cell being beaten daily but totally detached and happy, or the man who lives in his comfortable four walls complete with tantrums and anxieties? I bet you would find it hard to choose eh? I know I would.
Finally what about this. What about two men living in the same neighbourhood and are both living your average middle class life. They are both in the local shop waiting in the queue for an hour long only when they both reach the checkout realise the operator has decided to close for the night. One of them simply smiles and moves off out of the store and his peace is unaffected whilst the other throws a tantrum and makes a big scene by shouting obscenities becoming anxious and raising his blood pressure losing his peace. Who is the slave of the world in such a scenario?
There is that other one where a man says to his friend ” why do you always buy your newspaper in that shop, the owner is always rude to you?” And the friend responds ” why should I allow the owner and his behaviour to decide where I buy my newspaper?”
We often allow the attitudes and actions of others to dictate our emotions or behaviour and by doing so become slaves of men rather than slaves of Christ and slaves of freedom.
Look….I don’t have the monopoly on what freedom is and I can tell you that I experience anxiety as much as the next person and I have a lot of attachments, but I think when we at least become “aware” of these things and the fact that a deeper prayer life and being closer to God can help, that we can slowly break ( by the Grace of Christ) the chains that keep us enslaved to the world and perhaps get a glimpse of what Heaven is here and now. Because right here and now, there is no prison there is no anxiety, this is all something we build for ourselves and I think that when we become mature enough to admit that we are the cause of our emotions and prison walls and not others… only then can we really begin to understand ourselves because only by changing ourselves can we really experience a metanoia to become a better force in the world and view our neighbours in a different way than how we were conditioned to see them from the day we were born.
What’s the point of having religion if we don’t strive for this? It’s like having a bowl with no soup in it or having all the materials to burn a fire with but no understanding on how to make fire and I am still trying to work with God and asking him daily to bestow upon me His Holy Spirit to set me on fire and keep it lit because with out it ill just die a cold death. Love is the fire that keeps us warm, if we don’t have this, nothing else will ever benefit us. And there are those of us out there who have a PHD in theology, mathematics, medicine etc etc and yet we fail to understand this? Saint Paul puts all of us “intelligently stupid” people in our place when he says:
Corinthians:13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned,v but have not love, I gain nothing.