You Can’t See the Chains

I am linking up this morning with Rachel Anne and my Company Girl friends.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading chapter 17 of the Gospel of John. Verses 13-18 sort of jumped out at me. This paragraph is part of a longish prayer that Jesus offered just a few hours before his arrest. And he knew he was about to be arrested, as I discuss in an earlier post. Granted, he was talking to his Father and not to his eleven remaining disciples (Judas having already gone), but he deliberately prayed while they were in the room, for their benefit (see verse 13). Especially this part when he was praying specifically for them. I’m glad that John, at least, was all ears and recorded Jesus’ prayer for us. If you think about it, his words answer a puzzling question for believers.

In verse 13, Jesus makes it clear he is speaking in the disciples’ presence “so that they may have the full measure of [his] joy within them.” But in the very next sentence, he points out that “the world has hated” those same disciples. At first glance, this seems a bit of a paradox. Who gets their kicks out of being hated?

Ah, but that question attributes the effect to the wrong cause. No one gains joy from being alienated. Rather, as Jesus goes on to say (in verse 14), “… the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

Those who trust and follow Jesus are no longer really part of this world. It is not that “the world” changed its mind about them; it is that they have become something different — a new creation* that no longer fits into the world system.

So the question is, why the hostility toward believers?

Well, the world system is essentially a slave state. People trying to be free of God end up obeying Satan, the enemy of their souls, instead. Yet they cannot see their own chains. They do not even realize that they are slaves.

When people trust Christ, he forgives their rebellion, releases them from guilt, and gives them access to his righteousness. That’s where the joy comes from: our broken chains. Freed from slavery to sin, we can enjoy God’s protection and friendship.

But, though a few will follow, many who remain in slavery will resent the one who has been freed. Hence the alienation. And sometimes we Christians make it worse by forgetting that the people who now hate us are still slaves under the world system–just like we used to be. After all, we cannot see their chains either. We are tempted to perceive these folks as enemies rather than as the prisoners that they are. (Yeah, I know — we screw up in other ways, too, but I don’t want to stray off the point here.) So if someone hates me because of my faith, I should (a) not be surprised; and (b) respond with compassion instead of anger.

My word for the year is Grace. May I extend to others the same grace that Jesus offers all sinners — including me.

* See 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thanks for reading!
Jan

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11 Responses to You Can’t See the Chains

  1. diane says:

    Jesus says we should pray for those who persecute us…on our own, we would so much prefer to curse them! But more than anything, they need the freedom from sin that Jesus offers, and a gracious response to persecution may just help them to see what they need.

    We don’t experience half the persecution our brothers and sisters in other countries do, and yet I think oftentimes their response to their situations is so much more godly than ours to our much smaller troubles.

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  2. Jen Ferguson says:

    I love this, love this, love this! Those chains are nasty and I find that as soon as God and I have worked to break one, there is yet another to begin the process with.

    Have you thought about guest posting for Tiffini? She’s an SDG girl and is doing a series on captivity.

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  3. Star says:

    So very true. Interestingly, as a christian…I often find myself bound up in my old chains. I love Galations 5:1 because it reminds me that I am free. Unfortunately there are millions who are not and I am praying that I will have a heart of compassion for them. That I will not judge but love them and pray for them and do everything I can to tell them the name of Jesus and the source of their freedom.

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  4. Melissa says:

    I was reading in John Chapter 1 yesterday and verse 16 really grabbed my attention. “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” Grace upon grace! I’m with you. May I find myself extending the same grace that Jesus freely offers to all sinners – including me!

    Thanks for stopping by for coffee today. 🙂
    -Melissa

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  5. Beth says:

    I have to try to remember that word, Grace, too. Several years ago God showed me Grace big time, and it’s so easy to forget to show grace to my husband when he forgets to do things (or just doesn’t do them) or to my students who are so twerpy and irritating sometime….. yet as a wife and as a high school teacher, I’m pretty sure showing Grace is one of the best ways I can live out my faith. A good word for the year.

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    • Jan says:

      Beth, my hat is off to you as you teach twerpy, irritating high school students. I feel sure they see Grace in you. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  6. “Yet they cannot see their own chains. They do not even realize that they are slaves.”

    Amen! I am so grateful to God to be free from the slavery to sin that the world is in. Praise Him for setting us FREE!!

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