Favorite hymns and brilliant new Christmas melodies fill the airwaves this time of year. Familiar phrases and timeless lyrics echo through stores, churches, streets, cities. What is familiar to us often goes unnoticed, like a pair of shoes on the stairs that gets passed by while hustling thirty times before you nearly trip over them.
Last Sunday I was in an unfamiliar church setting, perhaps that is why I noticed a verse never noticed before in a familiar old, favorite Christmas hymn, “Oh Holy Night” written by John S. Dwight in the mid 1800s. I nearly tripped over it when I heard it, heralding my attention.
“Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
Below is the full verse.
“Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name”
These verses resonated with me for the broader sense of the truth they carry. We cannot ignore how these verses must have spoke during this period of history and continue to hold a valiant truth commanding continued notice. But the truth these verses proclaimed for me on a cold brisk Sunday morning in an unfamiliar church with unfamiliar people highlighted those who are captive and slaves to sin who we see daily living in spiritual chains.
What kind of chains do our brothers and sisters live in daily and what are we as the body of Christ doing when we see them bound up living under the torment of oppression? This is a question worth contemplating.
These chains can have many names: abortion, pornography, fornication, homosexuality, false witness, theft, etc (Matthew 15:19, Colossians 3:5, 1 Corinthians 7:2). Abortion is one of these chains.
The people we judge in sin are our brothers and sisters. We are no better. Our sin is just as grievous. Who are we to judge our brothers and sisters in the church?
If we, as the body of Christ, would follow the law of love, our hearts would break and our eyes would tear in seeing our brothers and sisters in bondage to past or present sin, and we would run in towards rather than away. I am speaking to myself as well.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galations 5:14
We cannot see just another person on the row behind us in our churches or just another person behind the counter at the store, or a person begging on the street. Each of these are our brothers or potentially our brothers, each an image bearer of God, made for a purpose.
Oh Lord, give us your eyes to see those you put in front of us and pray for the chains to break, remembering every slave is our brother. Jesus it is in Your holy name all oppression shall cease. Jesus, help us run to those held captive, and not judge, but rather pray and love.
If you are a sister or brother who has been in chains due to the past sin of abortion, there is wonderful news for you! Jesus came in the form of a baby, was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and was laid in a manger not just so it would be cute to sing about. The gospel story is much more scandalous, powerful, and earth shaking. He loves you and came to die on a cross for you and your sins, to free you from the bonds of slavery and His powerful name breaks chains and oppression. This is the good news of the gospel of Christ! This is why He came–to bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free. The power of the gospel transforms lives. Believe. What a glorious Savior! What tremendous news! What a Christmas Gift!
There is a two fold prayer. If you are one who has been enslaved to the sin of abortion or any sin:
“Father, I have committed the sin of abortion. I confess and I repent of this sin. I know it grieved your heart and I am sorry I did not trust you to care for me and my unborn child and thought I needed to take matters into my own hands. I see now how this is a sin. Please forgive me. “
If you just prayed that prayer, God forgives you. His gospel is peace. Jesus paid it all.
The other prayer is for those of us in the church who have judged others in sin or for their past sin:
“Father, forgive us for judging our brothers and sisters who have been trapped in sin. Lord, help us to love them well and for the law of love to be written on our hearts. We know that it is your kindness that leads others to repentance. Help us to love and be kind to those who are hurting and struggling, not indifferent, cold, or harsh. Holy Spirit, may every time we sing “Oh Holy Night” remind us that every person enslaved is our brother that we are commanded to love. I pray we don’t get comfortable with those words, but pick up our cross and walk the law of love out daily and point to You, remembering that Holy Night long ago when you gave everything for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
Enjoy unwrapping the most beautiful Gift this Christmas! The Gift of forgiveness and love, Jesus incarnate, Immanuel. Unwrapped so we can live free.
Deeper Still is a ministry that offers free weekend healing retreats for women who have had abortions and the men who fathered children lost to abortion. If you have had an abortion and would like more information about our retreats, please go to www.GoDeeperStill.org to find a retreat close to you.