Chains shall He break For the slave is our brother;
And in His name All oppression shall cease.
I’ve heard from a couple of readers of this series that these are their favorite lines of the carol. This should be something that resonates with every heart. Most of us certainly feel oppressed and enslaved at various times in ours lives.
At the very least, we have been slaves to sin; for if we have committed any sin, we are a slave to it. (John 8:34) Paul wrestled with this truth in Romans 7, claiming “the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (v14-15) Due to the shackles of sin, Paul was unable to keep from sinning.
Paul also recognized how he could be free of the chains of sin. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v24-25) The slave is our brother because we too were once slaves to sin, and we are untied with the Christ in His suffering and resurrection.
This is the second response to the gospel from O Holy Night: the elimination of pride. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16-17) If we are co-heirs with Christ, then we are all equal in Him. Hebrews 2:11 says that He is not ashamed to even call us brothers.
Here we see the equality of the gospel already, and not yet. Already are the chains of sin have been broken. Death has been conquered. Christ has experienced every temptation we might encounter and exemplified life in the Holy Spirit so that we can live beyond oppression in glory and righteousness. Not yet have we seen the complete cessation of oppression, however. One day, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Christ is Lord. On that day, all oppression shall cease and all slaves shall be freed. There will be, in every sense, peace on earth and good will toward men.