Ignorance is NOT Bliss! Part 1: Slaves to Sin

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8: 31-36

When I was doing my student teaching at a high school in Michigan, the senior literature class was reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the classic novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe that raised awareness of the horrors of slavery in 19th century America.

One day these AP students were sitting in their circle discussing the book with their teacher. I was sitting next to my mentor. When his eyes were elsewhere, I passed a note to the student next to me.

“At exactly 1:10, get up and leave the room. Meet me in the hall. Pass it on. – Mrs. A.”

The student gave me a quizzical look and passed it to the next person. At first each student looked confused and glanced at me, but seeing my subtle smile, obediently passed the note along.

At precisely 1:10, as the student next to the teacher – the only one who hadn’t read the note yet – was saying something, the rest of the students gathered their books, got up, and followed me out of the class.

Of course, the moment we were in the hallway, everyone wanted to know what was going on. This was fun, but what was I getting at? (They had known me long enough and heard enough of my stories to know that everything I did had a point.)

When the class regrouped, my surprised mentor and I had a good discussion with the students about the fact that slaves were forbidden to learn how to read, and the reasons for depriving them of an education. The kids had just experienced an example of what might have happened if slaves all over a plantation were able to have clandestine communications with one another, since slaves usually outnumbered their masters.

Slavery thrives on ignorance.

Time and again in the Bible we are admonished to read and hear God’s Word. Our spiritual lives, and often our physical lives, depend on knowing the truth. But what did Jesus mean by “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”?

The dialogue in John 8 makes it clear. If we sin, we are slaves to sin, and while the Jews took offense at the very idea that they were slaves, today we can see examples all around us – and maybe in ourselves – that sin enslaves. As Paul lamented in Romans 7, we do things we don’t want to do, and we can’t do what we really want to do.

For about twelve years I was a slave to an eating disorder. Paul’s lament fit me perfectly – I was always doing what I didn’t want to do, and I felt like “wretch,” indeed.

If you have ever struggled with an eating disorder, you know that the issue isn’t food, it’s self-worth and control. People who starve themselves frequently feel out of control, and they look at dieting as one thing they can control in their lives. People frustrated by dieting failures turn to vomiting or laxatives to purge themselves of their overindulgence and try to regain control. But in both instances these people end up more out of control than ever – slaves to their appetites and warped self-image.

At the time I was struggling with all of this, I was also leading a youth group. Ironically, I spent a lot of time and attention telling the teens how much God loves them, how precious they are to Him, and how He is gracious and forgiving when we mess up. And yet there was a disconnect when it came to my life, my actions, my view of myself. Yes, we’re saved by grace, but I have to do better. Yes, God forgives, but I have to “fix” what I’ve messed up so God will accept me.

I know, crazy. But that was the lie. Oddly, my self-condemnation was really a form of arrogance. I was placing standards on my life that I wasn’t putting on anyone else, standards that even God didn’t hold me to.

I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”PERIOD.

The turning point in my journey to normalcy was when I decided – as an act of my will – to take God at His Word and believe it, whether I felt it or not. In other words, if I had confessed my sin, I was forgiven, even if I still felt guilty. I didn’t have to wait until all the guilt feelings faded away to believe that I was forgiven. And I no longer found myself trying to eat the guilt feelings away, a form of “self-medication” which had only plunged me into deeper guilt.

This choosing Truth over feelings was huge for me, and it was the beginning of my deliverance.

God’s Truth is what sets us free. But Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching.” In other words, to be free, we need to know what that Truth is!

Do you want to be free? Read the Bible! You’ll find directions for a life of faith and promises you can choose to believe, not because of any emotion, but because God said so.

And God doesn’t lie.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving us the truth of Your Word. Help to confess our sins the moment we’re aware of them and stand on Your promise that we are forgiven and free. In the name of Your Son, the Word made flesh, Amen.

37 thoughts on “Ignorance is NOT Bliss! Part 1: Slaves to Sin

  1. 100%!
    We trust other people quite easily. Sometimes even if they break that trust. So, why, then is it so difficult to trust God sometimes? We can’t always see what’s behind the bend, but we can trust that whatever it is, He will be there with us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Goldie, I think sometimes when people break our trust, it’s hard to believe that God won’t do that, too. And the whole father thing has a huge impact. If you’re blessed enough to have a wonderful father, as I did, it’s easy to project that goodness onto your view of God. But if Dad abused or abandoned…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This morning, I was preparing for the adult Sunday school class that I lead; one of the chapters we’re looking at is Hebrews 2, and verse 15 is incredible: “[so that Jesus could] free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” It explains what life is like for unbelievers, and then I read your post, including about slavery! The other thing that jumped out at me in your post is “choosing Truth over feelings.” Amen, Sister!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Keith, we are on the same wavelength! I just read that verse THIS MORNING and decided to make my next post “Ignorance Is NOT Bliss, Part 2: Freedom from the fear of death.” It made all the difference in the world during the last crazy 2-1/2 years.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh good one, Annie! Ignorance is not bliss. I’m around a fair number of grown up people who can’t read very well. It’s huge burden for them, hard on the pride, but also they are easier to scam, easier to take advantage of. I’m really grateful my grandmother taught me how to read when I was very young and she did it just like you did, by convincing me I’d be out of the loop, not in on the secret, if I didn’t learn the code.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you for presenting such important truths in such a personal way. I always remember that Peter said, “… a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him”.
    Stay well dear sister and have a good weekend. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Slavery thrives on ignorance and Truth over feelings – you connected them so well Ann. We have to read the word to know the truth but sometimes we know it in our head but it does not always translate to how we live it out and so we have to choose truth over feelings.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is. The class was in a public school, but if the subject came up outside the classroom, I would jump at the chance to use it as a transition – although at the time (over 20 years ago) the connection with the gospel hadn’t occurred to me. (I wasn’t seeking divine perspective yet. 😉)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, thanks for sharing! Love this:

    “choosing Truth over feelings”…in counseling (which is new to me) I’m having to revisit childhood trauma and it’s caused feelings I never knew I had (as a result of numbness)…anyway that statement “choose truth over feelings” is something I need to jot down with your name right after.
    Glory to God but thanks for obediently writing for Him, Annie!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Alicia. I know on the one hand emotions are real and we shouldn’t deny them, but we also shouldn’t let them (or the circumstances that trigger them) control us.
      We were watching a movie the other night about rehab, and I found myself getting really annoyed with the counselor’s constantly asking, “How does that make you feel?” It’s OK to ask someone how they feel about something, but the word “make” gives the impression that we are not in control. The way I CHOOSE to respond to a situation can steer those emotions in one direction or another. Memorizing and reciting/ praying God’s promises can change fear and guilt into peace and gratitude – and freedom.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Choose truth over feelings–so simple yet profound, Annie! I can see myself choosing a truth I need to affirm in my life and journaling about it, as a way to solidify it in my mind and spirit. Thank you! P.S. What a brilliant way to teach your students about the power of words–and the lack of power when a person can’t read. No doubt every student remembers that lesson!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. “I was placing standards on my life that I wasn’t putting on anyone else, standards that even God didn’t hold me to.”
    Annie, this is so filled with profound wisdom. You capture the journey so beautifully—from pain and ignorance to coping and self medicating to choice to Truth, and everything along the way in coming to know the indwelling Christ Jesus, not just about Him. I can’t wait to read Part 2!
    Your soul sister,

    Liked by 2 people

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