“But, when you‟ve sat with a wife who has just found out that her husband has been cheating on her for years, and you realize what it is going to do to their marriage … and you see the concentric rings of pain that are going to emanate from this one man‟s choices – in that moment, Jesus’ warnings don‟t seem over-the-top or drastic; they seem perfectly spot-on.
Gouging out his eyes might have been less painful.”
When my wife was pregnant she worked as a car hop at sonic. Late one night as she and her co-workers were closing for the evening one of the cooks went out the backdoor to empty the trash. As soon as he opened the backdoor an armed robber forced his way inside. One of the other car hops was more than just a little spooked and tried to run out the front door and escape. In her frantic state she had a little trouble unlocking the door which gave the gunman time to leverage a little motivation to keep her there. He forced my pregnant wife onto the floor and began to issues threats. He told the car hop that unless she stopped, my wife would die right then and there.
Needless to say, my wife is alive and well to this day. The gunman made off with the night’s proceeds and no one was seriously hurt. But the thought of that night has lingered in the back of my wife’s mind as one of the scariest nights of her life. At that moment she was powerless and had no control over her own actions. If she valued her life she had to do everything the gunman ordered her to do. She was completely under his control.
But it was just one night. A living nightmare, but one that lasted only a short time. I pray that you have never, and will never have to undergo such a horrific experience. But Imagine what it would be like. Not just for one night; imagine what it would be like if that was your life everyday?
I’m not sure we can imagine it. A single night would be horrific, but everyday? That would be a fate worse than death. To have everything you do controlled with threat of death or harm to you or your family. To never be able to do the things you want to do; being forced to do things you don’t want to do. The mere thought of it is devastating.
It is what I think it must be like to be a slave.
In Exodus chapter 1 there is a relatively mild description of what slavery must have been like, at least for the early Israelites. The Bible says:
They put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor [...] the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly. (Exodus 1:11-14)
Words like “bitter,” “ruthless,” and “harsh,” simply can’t convey the realities of what God’s people endured at the hands of the egyptians. The Israelites suffered beatings, starvation, torture, even rape at the hands of the egyptians. And that’s only on a personal level, imagine what a desensitized slave master might do to one’s family who, no doubt, is also owned and subjected to the same terrible treatment. The life long nightmare of a slave makes my wife’s story seem mundane.
Thinking about all this, I find it curious the bible uses slavery as a metaphor for sin. Is sin really as bad as slavery? No one would ever willingly subject themselves to the cruel realities of slavery, but we willingly subject ourselves to sin on almost a daily basis. Sin is bad, yes! But how can these two things be even remotely similar?
Rock bottom is a term we use to describe someone who has finally seen the worst of their behavior. I’ve had many friends who have headed down their own path to rock bottom. It is a curious metaphor; what exactly is rock bottom? I think most people would say rock bottom is the point where you can’t dig yourself any deeper, you have hit rock bottom and the only place to go from there is up.
You have probably known people, may have even tried to warn them to turn back from their harmful decisions before they hit rock bottom. Rarely does anyone listen. It seems we need the realities and consequences of our actions to catch up to us before we are willing to admit they are harmful.
But the beauty of rock bottom is that it provides clarity. Anyone who has been to the bottom and thrust their shovel into the hard rock of their own sinfulness can tell you just how enlightening it can be. They can tell you the moment they started to dig themselves into this hole, how at that moment it didn’t feel anything like slavery at all. How at that moment it felt fun, exciting, exhilarating, like life itself. It’s that feeling, the blind, deceptive feeling of excitement we get when we first engage in a particular sin– it is that feeling that confuses us and makes us question how sin could be anything like slavery…but it is.
A Fate Worse Than Death
Sin is slavery, and slavery is a fate worse than death. Just ask the person who’s wife found out about an affair he was having. Ask a child who just found out his parents are getting a divorce. Ask the the family of a daughter who was killed by a drunk driver. That is the path sin takes. It effects not only us, but those around us. Sin isn’t just death, left to our own consequences, sin is a fate worse than death that leaves it’s victims crying out for relief from themselves.
In Exodus chapter 3 God tells moses:
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:7-8)
Take comfort, for God has heard your cry. He is concerned about your suffering. He has come down to rescue you from your own hand.
May God be praised!
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Photo Credit: Geoffery Fairchild; Flickr