Fast forward 30 years, and one could hardly deny that we sit in a world in need of an anthem for our times. Today’s anthem isn’t one that just requires bridging oceans and national borders, but it requires bridging of theological boundaries and solidifying one family of God.
“No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music is without a doubt one of the most anthemic Christian rock songs ever written. Simple and powerful, its message of hope, triumph, and trust reach out to the ends of a planet that is shaken every day by news of destruction, hopelessness, greed, apathy, and fear.
You unravel me, with a melody…
Today’s market bombards us with products that make us feel like we’re in control. You can have your side of the bed as firm as you like it, you can watch your favorite TV shows whenever you want to watch them; in fact our entire society is becoming based around this “I push a button and what I want happens” concept. This works great for entertainment, but horrible for our relationships with God. One terrible thing that happens is that we start to feel like we are the architects of God’s plan for us. But Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own…I seek to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30)
This falsity that I’m the sole executor of “the plan” has an evil twin that God’s blessings are earned by following some rigid script (the “If I do this then God will give me that” mentality). Both stand in direct contrast to God’s unmeasurable love and plan for my life. One thing that has helped me counter both notions is a constant reminder that there is nothing I can do that will “impress” God. This song reminds me that the best way to come to God in moments of fear and doubt is by “unraveling” any notions that He is not the author of my life, and leaving my soul open to hearing His will and reminder of His covenant.
You split the sea so I could walk right through it…
Whether you are a fan of the original 1956 “The Ten Commandments” or preferred the 2014 “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, the depiction of the Israelites’ escape from the pursuing Egyptian army as told in chapter 14 of Exodus was extraordinary cinematic depiction of God’s amazing power to uphold the covenant with His people. One of the most difficult things about reading the Old Testament is that it can seem like God is constantly intervening in miraculous ways to save His chosen people. We wonder, “If He can part seas, why won’t God just (fill in the blank) for me today?” I know that every day God is making all things work together for my good. Romans 8:31 – “If God is for us, who is against us?” and certainly Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God!” are great places to seek reassurance when I start to lose patience and faith. He’s going to nudge you down the road you need to be on. He’s going to bring people into your life that you need. He’s going to take those moments that were filled with pain and show you how they were the best thing that could have happened to you. None of these things involve literal parting of seas or manna from heaven, but “No Longer Slaves” serves as a great reminder that we’ve already received something better than an epic miracle to witness God’s immense love for us. He sent Jesus as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice so we could live with Him forever.
I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.
As Christians, we can’t help but struggle with biblical reference to slaves. I was reminded in church this week that slavery (especially in the New Testament) is best taken as a metaphor. Proof of this could be the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35). Jesus compares God’s judgement onto those of us who can’t forgive as how the forgiving king’s servant treated his slaves. More directly, the audience of Jesus’s days understood that all slaves have a master. This is best reflected in Luke 16:13 – “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” Of course in Luke the reference is to wealth, but I think as Christians today we need to seriously consider our enslavement to fear as an obstacle to loving God. I learned early on as a member of TraffickStop at BUMC that the undeniable tool used to entrap victims of human trafficking is FEAR. When someone uses fear to manipulate your emotions and to control your actions and behavior, you are enslaved, period!
I want to distinguish the difference between fear and risk. Risk takes into consideration the possible consequences of an unwanted event, but also the likelihood (or lack thereof) of it actually happening. Evaluating risk (and more critically mitigating it) is crucial in my industry to weigh the costs of engaging in beneficial behavior. Fear only looks at what could happen (whether likely or not) and stymies us in a “worst case scenario” mentality. It tells us that nothing is worth doing because of what could go wrong. Good luck finding something in the New Testament to the extent of Jesus saying, “Following me is risk free” or “Yes you could be persecuted for following me, so it’s best you just stay home and lock your doors.” Instead it’s repeated over and over that your faith comes with great risk, but also great reward.
Letting fear dictate your opinions and actions means you are serving a master antithetical to our God. Being a child of God means that you are no longer a slave to your fears. Your master has sealed a covenant of love and grace upon you. I struggle with unfounded fears myself, but I am learning that there is strength in saying, “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” I am thankful for this anthem He has given us to remind me when I am feeling weak or lost.
Kyle and his wife Jenn have been members of BUMC since 2006. He now works as a Quality Control Specialist with Holly Energy Partners, based out of Salt Lake City.