Ellis: An African-American Quest

“A central theme in the flow of African-American history has been the quest for freedom and dignity. There is only one basis for human dignity: the scriptural teaching that man and woman were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God’s personal dignity is the original personal dignity. Our dignity is derived from the dignity of God. In other words, if God is somebody, which he is, then I am somebody because I in some ways resemble God.

But what is the nature of freedom? Some would say that freedom equals independence. Independence from the oppression of other people is a valid goal, but to attempt independence from God is utterly futile. Think of how an airplane flies. Does a wing produce lift because it becomes independent of gravity? Of course not.

The wing produces lift precisely because of gravity. A wing’s lift is an expression of the law of gravity. Trying to be independent of gravity would be as foolish as stepping off the top of a building and trying to walk on air. For a few fleeting seconds you might think you had succeeded, but your illusion would end abruptly when you reached the pavement below.

God’s rule over us is like gravity: our attempts to resist it are utterly foolish. God laughs at the nations’ plots to rid themselves of his sovereignty, because God knows that they simply cannot escape his lordship (Psalm 2). “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Perhaps we can best learn what his lordship means by determining what it does not mean. We are not robots. God’s sovereignty does not mean manipulation. Manipulation is our human way of controlling things. For example, as I type this on my computer, I control what it does with the keyboard and the mouse. I can make the computer do exactly what I want—that is, I can manipulate the computer. Because we tend to see God as having our limitations, we may imagine that God’s sovereignty means that he manipulates us the same way I manipulate my computer. But this is not the case.

-Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free At Last: The Gospel in the African American Experience, 30-31.

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