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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Was it a bear?

We had passed it before I could recognise what it might be. A ball of brown fur on the roadside. A dead ball of brown fur.

‘A bear!’ Don exclaimed. What? In the middle of a suburban part of a big city? I knew this was Russia but really? A bear?

We were in a taxi following our friends’ taxi on the way to the train station. When we told them, they dismissed it. No. It wasn’t a bear. It couldn’t have been a bear.

So, was it or wasn’t it? There are foxes in London and skunks and coyotes in Los Angeles. Why not a bear in Tver? 

We’ll never know. But it did make me think about how often we catch a glimpse of something and draw a conclusion which may not be correct. Then we become adamant about it.

One of our friends said that what he didn’t like about Christianity was the idea of slavery. The more people talk about being slaves, the more their mindset is conformed to that self-image and it just isn’t healthy.

I knew where he was coming from. Paul often starts his letters calling himself a slave of Christ. But the main message of the gospel is that Christ came to set us free. Free from the rules and regs which we could never keep. Free from fear. Free from judgment. Free from death. Free to live in the love of God without any hang-ups, knowing our worth in his sight. He felt we were worth his sacrificing a cushy life in heaven as part of the Trinity and coming to dwell in the body of a man, a poor man, at a brutal time (are there any times which aren’t brutal?). He entered fully into our lost-ness in order to rescue us from it and lift us to a place of freedom and joy.

Paul’s response is to be an enthusiastic servant of such a Lord. He has seen his amazing God submit to the degradations of crucifixion and he is willing to respond by submitting to the lovingkindness extended to him. Being enslaved to Jesus means being set free to live out who we are, loved children of God. A paradox, unlikely, but nevertheless, true.

Our dear friend had glimpsed a word as he heard it spoken in church, and had assumed he understood its meaning and context. But he has drawn the wrong conclusion. Jesus has set us free from the yoke of slavery, to live loved lives in cahoots with him. Hallelujah!

(So was it a bear? It does make a good story...)

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