Writings by Cole Huffman


For Whom the Thrall Toils

A few years ago Tim Keller stood in my study and scanned my shelves. I tracked his eyes, my left his right. Flush with anxiety that my library might lack Kellerian heft, and before I could say, “I can explain all those dispensational books,” he pointed to a top shelf and looked at me. “There. Keep reading him,” he grinned. It was my J. R. R. Tolkien collection.


Reading
The Children of Hurin, I come to the passage in Chapter 4 where Morwen, wife of Hurin, a lord of men in the House of Hador, tells their son Turin he will be sent to live with an Elven king. Turin doesn’t understand the danger he’s in due to his father’s capture. His mother puts it succinctly: “Would you not rather be a king’s guest than a thrall?” But Turin doesn’t know what a “thrall” is. He asks a woodworker in his father’s employ, Sador, and gets this answer: “A thrall is a man who was a man but is treated as a beast, fed only to keep alive, kept alive only to toil….” Enslavement was about to overtake Turin’s people. The Elves were his only hope. 

I come to the passage in Chapter 13 of Luke where Abraham’s Daughter is in a kind of degenerative thralldom. Disabling spirit. Hunched over. Chronic pain. It’s Sabbath day in the synagogue. Jesus says you are freed from your disability. She straightens for the first time in 18 years. Becomes a king’s guest right there on the spot. The synagogue ruler protests. Miracles are for weekdays only, please! Jesus: Don’t you water your donkeys on the Sabbath? Why do you treat animals better than people? 

Sador of Middle-Earth, what is thralldom again? “It is being treated as a beast.” Or it is the next worse thing: The beast treated better than the man. 

When the outcry for an old lion slain by a Minnesota dentist on safari is greater than the outcry for new boys and girls slain by “healthcare providers,” you know we live in a thralldom. The overculture’s disabling spirit is a contortionist. Many enthralled by him. Many enthralled to him. 

When the culture of death is ascendant, well-funded, protected from glare yet bears man’s smudge in the worst ways, still the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods (Hopkins, God’s Grandeur). God’s patience is not yet exhausted. He is liberating, redeeming everyday. Though beasts are treated better than human beings there is no one toiling in enthrallment to self and Satan whom Jesus cannot straighten. 

I note Jesus didn’t ask Abraham’s Daughter if she wanted to be straightened out. He sure didn’t ask the synagogue ruler for permission. Lord of the Sabbath just took over and did it. A lot needs straightening out in the world, a Jesus takeover. Creation doesn’t just groan. It groans with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 

Come, Lord Jesus.    

Posted by Cole Huffman at 10:19 AM
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