When Michael Card first started attending an African American church, he was struck by how the congregation worshiped Jesus as "Master". He soon learned that during slavery, calling Jesus "Master" was a subtle way of saying that their earthly masters were not their true Master. This insight led Card on a journey of discovery, as he wondered, "What did it mean for African American slaves to acknowledge Jesus as Master? What did Paul, Peter, Jude and James mean when they acknowledged themselves as Christ's slaves? What would it mean for you and me to take upon ourselves the title 'slave of Christ'?"
A Better Freedom explores the biblical imagery of slavery as a metaphor for Christian discipleship. Michael Card shows how the early church saw Greco-Roman slavery as a window into understanding Jesus both as the Savior who took on the form of a slave, but also the true Lord and Master who sets us free from our own slavery to sin.
Come, let yourself be captured by the Master. And discover how you can be truly set free.
Years ago when I attended a small church in the years after I finished seminary, I used to occasionally preach. I do not think I was ever more than a mediocre preacher at best, but I did enjoy preparing sermons, if for no other reason than giving myself a place to process what I was thinking theologically.
A friend that I met with regularly was also a pastor and preaching professor at a local seminary. I remember asking him about how to talk about scriptural slavery as I was working on a sermon around one of New Testament passages about slavery (I don’t remember which one). Roughly half of my congregation was African American and I was concerned about how to preach about slavery as a White Christian preaching to actual descendants of slaves. My concerns were pretty much dismissed initially but several weeks after I preached the sermon my friend came back and we had a good conversation about how he had dismissed my concerned largely because he had just not really thought through the implications of my question. My memory is that I did what many other White Christians have done and minimized the slavery and made the passage more about being a servant (the difference in interpretation being a slave does not have options while servants choose to work, which has real theological implications to the difference in approach and is a much more individualistic approach.)
A Better Freedom is a book I wish I had read before preaching that sermon. Michael Card works through the historical realities around slavery in the Roman world, the biblical context of Philemon and a few other passages around slavery, and race based slavery in the United States and his experience of the Black church (he attends a historically Black church.)
During the few teachings I have heard/read comparing Roman slavery and US slavery, the comparisons have all focused on how US slavery was worse and that Roman slavery was not all that bad. Michael Card takes a different strategy. He talks about how US Slavery was awful and how Roman slavery was awful in many similar ways (although not race based.)
This isn’t a long book and primarily focuses on biblical exploration and biblical cultural context. But the modern examples and context are all about learning from the Black Church theology around slavery and Christianity. There are not many books written by White Christians that focus on learning from the Black church but A Better Freedom is one of those few.
I do wish there was more here. It is a bit short for my taste and could have dug a bit deeper. But I do think it is worth reading (or listening to).
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I loved hearing it read by the author. It challenging on multiple levels. I will be listening to it again and recommending it to others!