‘Slavery’ refers not only to the sale of natives to colonisers to be treated as property, but also to forms of oppressive labour that most cultures are guilty of. In India we see labourers being treated inhumanely. Jesus’ contemporaries knew about the abject conditions and humiliation of slavery.
When Jesus warns his listeners that they may easily become slaves, they are deeply offended (Gospel). They are descendants of Abraham, they can never be slaves! Jesus says this not to enemies or strangers, but ‘to the Jews who had believed in him’ (Jn 8:31). He explains that indulging in sin is spiritual bondage. His word, Jesus declares, is the truth that will set them free (Focus). What are the words of our Lord that can help us break free?
Love of God and love of neighbour were at the heart of Jesus’ life and teaching. He often spoke of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. There is also the need to be detached from our possessions. We must be freed from the slavery of selfishness, greed, hatred and from addictions or sinful behaviour like laziness, gluttony, immorality, or oppression of the vulnerable. We are sinful, and like Jesus’ disciples, we too can find freedom in his word.