Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sin and the Stockholm Syndrome

23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
(Acts 7:23-29 (ESV)
“He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand.” That is a lot to suppose, I guess. In any case his brothers did not understand this. Moses had killed a man for beating his people. He had it in his heart at this time to save them, to bring them up. It was then heart breaking for him to see his own people fighting amongst themselves. Perhaps the same way it is for young Christians new to the faith to see Christians fighting among themselves, or heaven forbid they should get involved in the theological debates that used to keep themselves contained to theological journals and pastor’s conferences but have spilled out all over the internet. But then no one can fight quite like two brothers. Being Christian doesn’t take the fight out of you anymore than being a Hebrew took the fight out from these two. Moses tried to intervene, to get to the bottom of it, but peace was not to be had. Instead there came a veiled threat to report him to those who might be interested in what happened to this Egyptian, and it was doubtful that Pharaoh would protect his adopted Hebrew grandson for trying to protect the Hebrews he wanted dead. Neither did these Hebrew’s want Moses meddling in their affairs as judge or ruler. In their minds Moses wasn’t offering salvation, wasn’t offering freedom, but he was offering to be a new ruler, a new slave master over them. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
Salvation often looks this way from the outside. It looks like slavery. In fact one finds this language to be quit prominent throughout the New Testament. Paul quite often speaks of being a slave of Christ for instance. Jesus is spoken of as having purchased us, and ransoming us. And for that we do owe him our lives in servitude. Christians realize this intuitively, even as they fail to serve him with their whole lives. Jesus even instructs us this way, telling us to regard ourselves as unworthy  servants, even when we have done things we think quite incredible for God, we should realize that we have not yet even done what God has asked us, much less anything extraordinary and therefore making us worthy of salvation. And in our bondage to sin, we have become slaves to sin, even sins we enjoy. We are given to think of ourselves as serving our own purposes and yet we do the will of our master as sinners and find ourselves enjoying acts of degradation. It is not a free will that subjects itself to pornography, drunkenness, drug abuse, promiscuity, theft, and revelry. It is not a free will that covets, and spurns the tent of our Lord, and creator for the tents of wickedness. Sin reigns in this world and it turns us upon each other to abuse one another like Hebrew slaves in the shadow of the pyramids, in the shade of the Sphinx. We take advantage of one another, and in doing so humiliate ourselves. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome on steroids, our relationship to sin that terrorizes our very being. And then Jesus redeems us, he pays our ransom, purchases us with his blood, rescues us with his death. Then he asks, “Brothers, why are you fighting?” “Do you not see here this is your sister you abuse with your lust, who would give you love and yet you are unwilling to marry. This is your brother you oppress with unfair wages. This man you murder, he shares the same image of the creator as you, was purchased with the very same blood of God.” And we confuse it with freedom and love, so we spurn our savior who would spare us the humiliation, who would give us life and vanquish our enemies. We would even murder him, so we could go on sinning, with the  delusion that we are the rulers of our own life, that we have control over what we do, that we are free.

But the Christian who has been washed in the blood of the lamb, forgiven of his sins in Jesus Christ, well the Christian knows love, the love of God, and set free from sin gives his life to God, because he would rather be a door keeper in the Lord’s tent than feast in the tents of wickedness. And when he stumbles, and finds himself bickering and fighting, and degrading others he turns again to the Lord for forgiveness and strength, knowing that apart from Christ, love is impossible, and there is no freedom. 

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