But... My Chains are Gold!

by Mark Klages, Christian Examiner Contributor |
Photo: H. Michael Karshis/Flickr

Periodic disclaimer: I am not a theologian, not seminary trained, I don't even preach to thousands of loyal congregants each weekend from a stage with lights and a sound board. I'm just a sinner, saved by grace, offering you my thoughts, my prayers, my discernment regarding events of today and how Christians should react to them. Don't believe what I write just because it sounds good. Test me. Validate what I say against the scriptures. Don't just agree because I tickle your ears. (2 Timothy 4)

What color are your chains?

I know, that's an odd way to open a dialogue, but I'm curious. Are they painted with pictures of your family or friends or co-workers? Are they green and flowery because you escape every weekend to hike and enjoy nature? Maybe they're traditional cold steel from sins we would all recognize, but refuse to talk about in conservative circles. Or maybe they're silver and gold and come with nice cars and iPhones.

Casting Crowns is by far one of the most talented, and possibly anointed, groups in contemporary Christian music today. As you might guess, their song, "When the God Man Passes By," inspired me to write today. The first verse says:

I was a hollow man
My treachery despised and rightly so
And even though my chains were gold
I'm still a slave and reaping what I'd sown

What a perfectly alarming picture of the true nature of our earthly chains. Our chains, the chains that enslave us in our own sin, made of gold. Really, though, what does that mean?

Keeping with our musical theme, another Casting Crowns song comes to mind: "Slow Fade." The chorus of that song claims "People never crumble in a day, Daddies never crumble in a day, Families never crumble in a day... It's a slow fade."

Christian, these song lyrics express a challenge we all face every day. Anything that takes on importance in our life can become something that takes our attention away from God. Anything that takes us away from God can become the chains that drag us down and keep us from growing in our spiritual walk with Him. And like the song says, it isn't often a moment in time when we say, "Ok, I'm done. I'm walking away." Rather, it's a slow fade. We build the chains link by link, maybe drink by drink or hike by hike. Every time we choose family over God or a ballgame over God or a day on the boat with friends over God we risk adding another link in the chain. Every time we choose something else, it gets easier to justify it the next time around. Every drink. Every website. Every dollar. But despite our own treachery, there is hope.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Heb 13:5, NIV)

For God will break the chains that bind his people and the whip that scourges them, just as he did when he destroyed the vast host of the Midianites by Gideon's little band. (Isa 9:4, TLB)

God promised He would always be with us, and never leave us, regardless of our sin and our tendency to extend our chains. Forgive me the visual, but I see us damaged, dressed in white, sitting on the floor with child-like focus, building our chain link by link. Our chains of gold lay in our lap. They wrap around our legs and trail off onto the floor while God, our loving Father kneels over us speaking softly, trying to break through to us. He knows if He touches us that we'll revolt, even get violent, so he speaks softly and places little reminders in our view of how much He loves us. And when we see these, when we hear His voice from afar, we stop building our chain and slowly, meekly, expectantly look up and see His face. Finally we hear His voice clearly, closely. We jump into his arms, recognizing Him, maybe for the first time, or maybe the first time in a long time, and the chains we were building, the chains we were holding fall to the floor and shatter.

We didn't even realize it was us holding onto the chains, not the chains holding us.

You can come just as you are
Let Him have your broken heart
You have never run too far
There is freedom in His scars

'Cause when the God-man passes by
The blind will see and the dead will rise
Redeemed will dance and broken wings take flight
When the God-man passes by

–Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.