The predominant symbolism of chains these days is connected to oppression. We think of chains as being used to repress, to bind, to tie up, to enslave, to restrict. Prisoners who are handcuffed and then kept chained up remain the main way we think about chains.
Psalm 107 talks about prisoners in chains and God breaking these prisoners free from the chains that bind them. Psalm 116:6 says ‘You have freed me from my chains.’ Galatians 5:1 tells us “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Symbolically, anything that holds us back from doing what God has told us to do or from being what He wants us to be is like a chain that binds us. God wants us to be free from sin and oppression, to live as He wants us to live:
“We are free to love
Like our God has loved
We are free to give like He gave.
We are free from sin.
We are free to begin
To forgive as He forgave.
We are free.” (Aaron Shust, ‘We Are Free’)
If we are to know freedom from the chains that oppress us, we have to:
1. Recognise that Christ’s victory on the cross means victory for us
We might not be able to break the chains that bind us ourselves – which discourages us and leads us to believe that we’re doomed to be chained up forever – but God has “condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4). Because Christ has won the victory over sin and death on the cross (see Col 2:15), we are free to “receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness” and to “reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Rom 5:17)
2. Understand that Christ’s love is greater than any other force we may experience
“The wonder of Your love
Will break the chains that bind us
The power of Your touch
Releases us to worship.” (‘The Wonder of Your Love’, Hillsong)
When we really grasp the lavishness of the Father’s love for us (1 John 3:1, Rom 8:37-39), when we realise that nothing we do or don’t do can alter God’s extravagant love for us, when we catch even a glimpse of that unfailing love, we are set free!
3. Surrender to Jesus
Only God has the right to be the boss of our lives. “Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Chains can be broken dramatically, in an instant; or unravelled gradually and patiently over time. But the chains that do bind us can be broken by the power of the name of Jesus. We only need to surrender to Him and understand that His love and His victory unlock every chain. Then we can live in the freedom He has purchased for us, with no chains on us, with our feet on solid ground.