Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"12 Years a Slave" (2013)

I recently attended a church event where “12 Years a Slave” was featured. It was probably the perfect setting for seeing such a film. It is not something you would want to watch for entertainment! And, as might be expected, the theme of the evening was a reflection on the freedom we have in Christ. That is one way of looking at things, but I had a few other thoughts.

The story that this film is based on is almost unimaginable. A free man is kidnapped and forced into slavery for over a decade. While that sort of thing still happens even today in parts of the world, the unimaginably evil aspect of this story is the way that it was tolerated by the people and government of the United States—a self-proclaimed Christian society!

The “freedom in Christ” parallel breaks down a bit because the slavery one is freed from is not the bondage of an innocent man wrongly enslaved. We Christians believe we have been set free from a slavery of our own design and choosing. That said, plenty of “Christians” continue to live in a bondage of sorts even after they have heard the message of the Gospel.

My thoughts coming out of the viewing were indeed of the self-examination variety. However, I think the way to approach the film is to see ourselves in ALL the characters. What of myself do I see in the other slaves? How about in the slave owners? The “compassionate” one, the brutal one, or the detached “fair” one? And, while everyone may want to see themselves in the Brad Pitt character (including Pitt, who as a producer cast himself in the role), even there, there is something to learn. Would we have had the courage to stand up to an unjust system protected by the law of the land? Do we?

If I am honest with myself, I see aspects of myself in all he various—even terrible—characters. And THAT is where I begin to appreciate my freedom in Christ. I was a slave to sin. I was a terrible person on my own without God. That is a slavery I never want to fall into again! Even though I still live in a world where such evil is pervasive and accepted—and still affects me from time to time—I am not bound to it. My future is not doomed to its mastery anymore. I am free to do what is right, and I do not have to rely on my own courage or power to resist it.

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