Comfortable Chains

Photo courtesy of Flowerpictures

“But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:11)

She was kidnapped by a radical political group and was missing for about two months. Then in April 1974, she resurfaced. A security video showed her with others robbing a bank. The story of Patty Hearst, victim turned accomplice bewildered everyone. The radical group was eventually destroyed and Patty arrested. She was a willing accomplice in the crimes of the group. But it also became apparent that she was a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome.

This phenomenon was identified a year earlier in Stockholm when the hostage victims of a bank robbery in Stockholm became sympathetic to their captors; refused rescue and would not testify against their captors. It is the mystery of loving an abuser. Victims become comfortable in their chains. It is when prisoners who have spent so many years in prison, that the confines and regiments of prison are preferred to the scary unknown freedom in society.

From the Jewish diaspora in 586 BC, perhaps one tradition more than any other, identified the Jews as Jews. It was their Sabbath practices. Jewish literature shows an obsession with laws governing what constitutes keeping the Sabbath. Resting one day in seven was unknown except for the Jews.

One day of rest in seven to decompress is now recognized as being essential to productivity. It was given to us by divine revelation through Moses, maintained by Jewish tradition, and now accepted as a basic human good.

This wonderful gift of rest became cluttered by human laws and tradition. Yet, it would be fair to say that a Sabbath rest with all its problems is better than no rest. Still, the Sabbath had devolved into something other than what God intended. So when Jesus came to earth, he reminded the people that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. He gave them the Sabbath, he sets the rules, he explicates his intention, that Sabbath is not about prohibitions.

The Jews had become so tangled by their laws of the Sabbath, and become so comfortable with them that they don’t want to be freed from the onerous laws of Sabbath and return to God’s gift of worship and rest. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, they were incensed. They have become comfortable in their chains, they have to do something to stop this attempt to free them.

It is a sad state of affairs. It is a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome. These people became so identified with a corrupted form of Sabbath that they no longer recognized true Sabbath. Weep for them.

Wait… Weep for us.

Has the pendulum swung too far to the other side? I think we can see that Christians today have scant regard for Sabbath rest. While the Jews were obsessed with eliminating activity or limiting activity on the Sabbath, Christians do not give a second thought to crowding our lives with other things on our Sabbath worship and rest.

While the Jews were imprisoned by what they were not allowed to do on the Sabbath, Christians today don’t even need to ask what they can do on the Sabbath. Without a second thought, we crowd God out of our Sabbath with scant regard to the purpose of the Sabbath. I think we are even guiltier than the Jews in forgetting the purpose of the Sabbath.

Christians today seem to think we are doing God a favor by going to worship. In fact, this is so ingrained in our psyche that many churches today thank people for coming to worship – strange that we should suggest to worshippers they are doing God a favor when we worship.

We can be so comfortable in our prison of activities on Sunday that we begin to think of worship as a burden. We can refuse rescue. We can even decide that we need to do something about the person who brings us back to God’s purpose for our day of worship and rest.

If we are harried and stressed, perhaps not setting aside one day in seven to worship and rest has something to do with it?

Note: The ESV is used unless indicated otherwise.

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2 Responses to Comfortable Chains

  1. Liz says:

    Interesting dichotomy. Stressed because of too much work? Rest.

    Regarding the abuser/abused relationship – is there much bibilical guidance in directing the abused to get out of an unhealthy relationship – whether it be emotional abuse or something less obtuse? I feel like there is so much writing/rules that suggests the “victim” to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. God does not give you more than you can handle. Lean into Jesus even amidst the toughest situations. Give thanks… An even more writing that leads one to believe with God’s love and grace, they are not victims of anything in this world. On the contrary, they are conquerors, they will rule, they are the princess of the King.

    Thank you for your ministry.
    Liz :)

    • Peter Eng says:

      Good thinking.

      Jesus was leading the nation out of the abuse of Sabbath. So I will support the notion that there is a time when a person gets out of the abusive situation. There are too many, and where that line should be drawn is really quite unique to the situation. There are churches that abuse — that is really intolerable. No reason to hang on. There are spouses who abuse — that is varied, but Jesus gave allowance for divorce even though it is not desirable. There are possessive people or parasitic acquaintances. There is no need to put up with these. The list goes on. Some people are convinced they are called to certain situations so they can bring about the conversion of the other person. That is unique. In most instances, the victims only enable the abuser. There can hardly be merit in that. Sometimes the abused is just too fearful, or needs the ego affirmation of being needed, etc. Again, the abused can, at a more subtle level, be using the relationship to her own gain.

      If a person is persecuted for faith, it is different and there is no option to walk away.


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