<span style="font-size: 1rem;">Rom 7 is about wanting to do what is right as Christians but not managing it and doing evil instead. “Not doing what we want to do, but doing what we hate,” is particularly true when we think about the institutional and economic systems that are exploitive and unjust which we sadly struggle to detach ourselves from.</span>
For example, our country has borrowed from the World Bank to help us through the pandemic at a low rate of interest. This has meant poorer countries have been downgraded and are unlikely to get loans during the crisis that is likely to hit them.
Our desperate need for PPE to save the lives of doctors and nurses has partly been resourced by modern day slaves.
Our globalised economic system is not something our government, church or ourselves can easily detach from; hence cries of hypocrisy when it was discovered the church had shares in oil companies and Wonga, while we criticised what these companies were doing.
When we consider modern day slavery both here and abroad, carpet workers in India, gold miners in Ghana, those who live off rubbish tips in Brazil and those attempting to farm in drought ridden climates etc we see so many people contending with impossible conditions imposed upon them by others
We are in a constant battle against wrongdoing and will always be because when we win the battle against one form of injustice others occur
We know that Jesus has won the battle. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ who died to forgive us our sin and enable us to live by the power of his Holy Spirit.
Our gospel reading shows us how we might align our will and values to Christ’s and share in his victory.
The society Jesus describes surprisingly seems much like ours. Jesus talks about those who are critical, judgemental and controlling. His generation was also expected to dance to the tune of the piper and mourn when required to do so
Even though modern management style, league tables and emails didn’t exist, popular gossip about both John the Baptist and Jesus himself (real fake news) existed.
Instead of getting het up about it Jesus spends time with his heavenly Father praying and focusing upon his values. He then says, “Come unto me.” Find out what I am like yourself.
Some of us, like Jesus, have been unfairly maligned and have suffered injustice. Some have become trapped under exploitive practices and have been no longer able to work in those contexts and stay well. We become weary and heavy laden
Jesus tells us the only way we can become free is to become yoked to him.
The yoke is a symbol of oppression and hard work. It is the piece of wood which rests across the necks of oxen and horses when they are ploughing too keep them in line and enable them to pull heavy burdens.
It is also a symbol of slavery. Jesus spoke into a world where the majority were not playing in the market place and gossiping. He spoke to a slave culture which was inhumane and unfair.
During the transatlantic slave trade, Africans stolen from their homeland were yoked together like beasts. People became the property of their owners to kill or rape at will.
When the policeman placed his knee on George Floyd’s neck killing him it was a potent symbol of the yoke or knee placed upon the necks of black people throughout history.
Slavery was awful, yet the Church of England condoned it. None of the Bishops in the House of Lords supported Wilberforce’s efforts to abolish the trade in human beings.
Sadly there are more slaves today than before. Thankfully the church no longer condones it.
Millions of children and adults are trapped in slavery in every single country in the world, including ours.
Modern slavery is all around us, but often just out of sight. People can become entrapped making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies.
From the outside, it can look like a normal job. But people are being controlled – they can face violence or threats, be forced into inescapable debt, or have had their passport taken away and be threatened with deportation. Many have fallen into this oppressive trap simply because they were trying to escape poverty or insecurity, improve their lives and support their families.
40 million people are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery worldwide: One in four are children, almost three quarters are women and girls and over ten thousand were identified as potential victims by the authorities in the UK in 2019.
Everyone, everywhere should have the freedom to make safe, dignified choices about their lives
Jesus gives us a choice to be joined to him, to walk and work with him. He says, “Take my yoke.”
Jesus takes the yoke too. He comes down to our level. He is gentle and meek, not like the arrogant bosses. He is lowly of heart.
When we walk with his power alongside, not in our own strength, there is no striving to get ahead. We walk, at his pace, in the same direction; we are winners because we cross the finishing line with him
Jesus tells us his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Jesus is the Master carpenter. Our yoke is a perfect fit with no pressure sores or splinters
Jesus came to free us from the slavery of sin. We therefore need to work with him to free both the exploiter and exploited from the social, economic, legal, and political systems which need changing so that all God’s people can be free.
Jesus yoked himself to us on the cross bringing us into relationship with him.
He comes alongside us in our work, in our shame, when we are burnt out and tired because we have been doing things for God rather than with him
We need no longer be yoked to the powers of this world, we no longer have to dance to its tune because Jesus invites us to live our lives a better way, to come, to take his yoke, and to learn from him. He says the result is that we shall find rest for our souls.
by the obedience of Jesus
you brought salvation to our wayward world:
draw us into harmony with your will,
that we may find all things restored in him,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.