Two new worship albums were released yesterday. Both were recorded live at Christian youth festivals last summer. Both were released by the same record label – Kingsway. Each takes its title from the title of one of its most popular tracks…yet at first glance, the titles seem to tell different stories: one is entitled We Are Yours, the other, We Are The Free.
Weird. Two sets of Christian worship leaders selling opposite visions of what it means to be a Christian – are we free, or are we owned?
The secular world sees freedom and ownership as incompatible. To own another human being would be to deny them their humanity – and indeed, 200 years ago, the slave owners used this very argument to justify keeping their slaves – black people were not, they held, truly human – to own them was more like owning a dog than a person. One tack the abolitionists took in overturning slavery was to prove this argument wrong: black people were – are – every bit as human as whites and therefore owning them was utterly unacceptable.
One of the great mysteries of the Christian faith is that this rule does not apply in the spiritual sense. Our lives are never our own; the idea that they are is an illusion that has dogged us since the fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, they chose to remove themselves from slavery to the God who had created them and given them life, and sell themselves into the hands of Death. They did not physically die at that moment, but spiritually they were now owned by another, who sought their destruction, not their good.
When we become Christians, we reverse the process. We reject the master to whom we have been enslaved, and bind ourselves to another. He sets us ‘free indeed‘, but Paul describes this freedom as slavery to righteousness (Romans 6). Having been saved from our slavery to sin, we are now free to be slaves to God. We no longer have our lives forcibly directed by our impulses, our desires and our insecurities, but choose to submit them to the Spirit and follow his promptings, suggestions and example.
Interestingly, the title tracks of the two worship albums above share a common theme: Matt Redman’s ‘We Are The Free’ includes the line: “We are the free, and Yours is the glory”, and Forerunner’s ‘We Are Yours’ says that we are “Made by You and for Your glory”.
Not so very different after all, then.
Note: Apparently the song called ‘We are Yours’ that I’ve quoted above is not the one that appears on the Newday album – thanks @rebekahcox1 for putting me straight (via twitter). The one quoted is by Charlie Hall. The one on Newday album is by Forerunner. It doesn’t mention God’s glory, but does say “We are free to live as sons and daughters in Your house/We are chosen and invited to run in” – so my point still stands, even though my illustration collapsed due to slipshod research. Apologies for the confusion…!