Posted by Craig Borlase on 22 November 2013


12 Years a Slave is a remarkable movie. It is a brutal, shocking depiction of the true story of Solomon Northup - a free-born man who was tricked, trafficked and sold in slavery in the 1840s. 

It’s a film about many things: survival and slavery, abuses of religion and power, the end of an era and the terrible things we have in common today. But it’s also - for a few seconds - a film about the power of sung worship. 

After so many beatings and abuses that pass before our eyes like a live car crash, something happens. Northup joins in the singing of an old spiritual song that looks forward to the release from earthly suffering that death with bring (there’s a clip of it in the trailer at about 1:30). It’s a powerful, powerful moment. Having resisted for so long, it is a moment of surrender.

We like to talk about worship and justice - which is right and good. But when we do, we often think about our worship and their struggle for justice, as if we can somehow sing others to freedom. Who knows - maybe music really is that powerful - but what if we’re missing something? 

What if, like Solomon Northup, our music will only stop being a form of entertainment and become a powerful, God-directed plea for help when we allow ourselves to experience the struggles and pains of those who suffer? What if we’ve got too good at being observers and need instead to remember the call to be those that live among those who are desperate for God, whether they acknowledge it or not?

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