READ: Psalm 47, Jeremiah 34-36, Matthew 19, Acts 26
SETTING BROTHERS FREE
“No one should keep a brother in bondage.” (Jeremiah 34:9)
God spoke through Jeremiah to remind the Jewish people about literal slavery and its wickedness. In our modern refined fallen state, we still enslave our brothers, just in more subtle ways. Subtle slavery is still anathema and we must be vigilant against it–in ourselves.
Set our brothers free by trusting them. Family can be the harshest prison warden. We keep those we know locked in the cell of who they used to be. Family can often be the last to recognize the working of God in each other. We tend to deal with each other according to patterns from decades ago. This is bondage. We must trust that our brother and sister is growing in the Lord, growing in wisdom, growing in capacity. When we trust them with responsibility, when we believe they can do something now that they failed in before, we inject life into them. Sometimes we have to call out of our brothers something they do not see in themselves–and in so doing we set them free.
Set our brothers free by forgiving them. A cruel sentence indeed is to lock our brothers into the sins of their past. This is especially true when our brothers or sisters have sinned against us. We can hold general public sins against others, but it is more common to hold smaller personal affronts–and hold them fiercely. When we refuse to forgive offenses, we leave our brothers bound and ironically find ourselves chained along with them. For our good as much as theirs, we need to forgive offenses and chose not to be hurt. We must be especially careful not to pretend to forgive, to tell others we have forgiven them but keep them bound in our hearts. When we make false claims of liberty, this offends God and He grants us in kind: “Behold, I proclaim liberty to you…to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine” (Jer. 34:17).
Set our brothers free by affirming them. It is all too common in Christian circles to damn by faint praise. We are masters of indirect assassination. Our careful pauses, our framed responses, they all communicate that we have reserve about our brother or sister. We liberate our friends by praising them to others. Without being dishonest we can extol the positive aspects of our friends. There are times for candor, but evaluation must be based on the foundation of encouragement. We liberate our brothers when we genuinely affirm them before their peers. This is shackle-striking speech and it has a double reward: sincere praise of others frees both them and us, for we find that the more we affirm others, the more our hearts warm towards them, and the greater common liberty and dignity we all enjoy.