Freedom as Bondage

“And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.” (Mark 5:2–4 ESV)

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” George Orwell, 1984

The first part of the narrative in Mark 5.1-20 is dominated by Mark’s appalling description of a man with what he calls an unclean spirit [we will quickly learn that this is quite an understatement – much like saying Michigan State has a lousy football team this year, but I digress].  The man lives among the tombs, he is so violent, or out of his mind, or controlled by demonic forces, that the people in the small village near the Sea of Galilee do not bother trying to bind him any more.  One assumes that they want to bind him for his own good since he appears to be bent on harming himself.

They have tried to subdue him with chains, with shackles and fetters, but he has torn the chain apart.  He has broken the shackles.  “No one had the strength to subdue him,” summarizes Mark.  No one indeed.  It’s quite apparent that this man has superhuman strength, or to put it more truthfully, strength which is out of the ordinary and virtually impossible to explain from the physical realm.  Which is not a problem at all because they  are not dealing with the physical realm here, the man has an unclean spirit, this is the spiritual realm with which they are dealing.

This man is physically free, the people in the village have tried to subdue [tame] him, but no one can do it and there is no chain that can hold him.  He is completely uncontrolled except by his own impulses, this is the very definition of freedom, right?

Nah.  The man may be free in the physical realm, but look at what he is doing: Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. There is something ominous going on here, something that can’t be explained in the physical realm.  The man is physically free, but he is in spiritual chains.  The powers that control him are not benevolent dictators, but vicious destroyers.  With super human strength, the man is not making the world a better place, he is not destroying evil as if he were superman, he is slowly destroying himself. If George Orwell were writing this man’s story, the motto of the forces that control him would be: BONDAGE IS FREEDOM.

This is the nature of spiritual bondage.  While it seems like freedom because the physical form is unconstrained by anything, it is just the opposite, it is subjugation and chains and fetters and shackles and this poor man is powerless to break free from spiritual shackles.  He needs someone to free him.

It’s kind of ironic, but we live in a world in which we have all the appearance of being free to carry out whatever desires we want to carry out.  We call this true freedom, but of course, it is often just the opposite. It is slavery, and the fetters and shackles that we take on so willingly will slowly destroy us.  We need someone to free us.

 

 

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