12 Years A Slave


I admit that I am not much of a movie goer. If I go to the movies, it because my wife or kids want to go, but there is value in going as art often imitates life. There are many parallels that can be drawn from scenes, lines or music from a play or a movie. In 12 Years A Slave, this is certainly the case. I watched this movie last week with my wife and my daughter, partly. For those who may not know, 12 Years a Slave is a 2013 historical drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into slavery. Northup worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years before his release. (wikipedia)

Northup, a free family man, was working as a violinist. He was kidnapped, really man-napped, and sold into slavery. He was taken away from his wife, children, life and freedom. I am sure all of us can sort of imagine what it would be like to taken away from our free lives to be sold into captivity where we were dehumanized and subjected to horrible treatment. The film is said to have breathed reality. “There are enough scenes of brutal violence in 12 Years a Slave to make your skin crawl. But few are as disturbing and as genuinely shocking as one in which a black slave is left hanging from a tree, grunting from suffocation, his toes barely touching the ground. Behind him, children play and other slaves go about their chores, fearing for their lives if they even look his way. The camera lingers on this wide shot for several minutes as if to emphasize the sheer helplessness of these people.” (ref).

In another situation where art imitates life, Clemens, one of the characters who had been kidnapped, participates in a discussion with Robert and Solomon. He says, “Three can’t stand against a whole crew. The rest here are niggers, born and bred slaves. Niggers ain’t got the stomach for a fight, not a damn one.” Normally, I stay away from the use of that word; however, this scene struck me because it evidences man’s estate with sin. He has not stomach for a fight against sin. In fact, man does not want to fight against sin. He wants to exists seamlessly with sin. Man wants to sin. Man loves to sin.

12 Years a Slave chronicles the life of one man who was free and became a slave. Man, on the other hand, is born a slave. Psalm 51:5 says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Romans 3:23 says, “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Since we were born into sin and all sin, we, without Christ, are all slaves to sin. Listen to what Paul says about people being slaves to sin and Christ setting you free in Romans 6.

13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Without Christ, we are free from the control of righteousness (v20 above). In fact, Romans 8 says,

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.

The Word says that we have an obligation to live according to the Spirit of God if we have the Spirit of God. In essence, Paul is saying that for those who have trust Christ as Savior and Lord are obligated to live as free men and free women not as those who “ain’t got the stomach for a fight, not a damn one.” Christ calls us to live in righteousness and as a slave to righteousness that sets us free. Romans 6:18  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

12 Years a Slave is nothing compared to a lifetime of being enslaved by sin. In regards to freedom, Solomon Northup said, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.” The only way for any of us to be free from the slavery of sin is through Christ. 1 John 3:9 says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” Do you want to be slave to sin, then ‘You must be born again.’ John 3:7

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