The Galley Slave Analogy Explored

In the Galley Slave analogy I shared with you recently I spoke of a galley slave rowing for the black fleet of pirate ships. Because the observations I am making in that scenario are important ones I am going to revisit the analogy here and unpack some points that I want you to note.

Reviewing the Analogy

In the scenario everyone spends their life as a galley slave (slave oarsman) in sea vessels, either for the Black Pirate fleet or the White ships (they are the good guys). The black are constantly in fear of being pursued and sunk by the white ships. While each person has free choice of fleet to row for their choice is usually made inadvertently, by their childhood actions.

Acts of selfishness, independence or evil automatically assign a person to the Black ships. Only those who have remained free of selfishness and evil will be allowed to work on the White ships.

I suggested that you were a slave on a Black ship and had heard that it is possible to cry out to the White ship for rescue. When your ship is under attack you cry out for rescue, despite the anger of those in the Black ship around you. As the Black ship breaks up you are rescued to the White ship for a whole new life.

Instead of being chained in place you are given a place to row, but as an act of devotion. You are a ‘love slave’ to the White fleet, and you have the opportunity to abandon ship if you should so choose.

You do choose to abandon the White ship, in hope of freedom from all servitude altogether. You escape to shore and run with all your might. But you discover that your abandonment has made you a slave again, this time to the Black Pirate ships again.


While we all love the notion of absolute freedom, it does not exist. We live in a moral universe in which we either serve our maker or we rebel against Him and become a slave to degradation.

Even if we are otherwise ‘nice’ people, when we are on the side of evil we must suffer the consequences that come to evil. We are judged as a pirate because we have chosen, no matter how ignorantly, to be on the pirate ship.

“The wages of sin is death.” Sin brings people into slavery to its kingdom. The kingdom of sin is under the death sentence and so you, when on the side of sin, will suffer judgement, destruction and hell. You are an enemy to God and you serve God’s enemies. You are under the judgement that belongs to all of God’s enemies. Your only hope is to abandon the enemy’s service and come under God’s lordship.

New Life in Christ

We are each offered forgiveness and deliverance through faith in Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to pay your account, so there is a legal provision for your debts to be cancelled. However, you must “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved.

Those in the service of sin will resent you for abandoning their ship and crying out to God for mercy. They will mock and rebuke you for changing sides. You may well lose all of your friends and the respect of your associates. The change in your place is radical.

Complete Freedom to Serve

Your newfound freedom in Christ is awesome. You are freed from slavery to sin. You are now empowered to become free from every evil habit of thought, word and deed. Your will is now able to yield to God. You can stop cursing, lusting, arguing, rising up in pride and much more. This is a profound freedom that is exhilarating in its dimensions.

In that place of freedom the only reasonable response is for you to dedicate yourself to God, as His love slave, serving His kingdom with all your life. In your service, you are no longer chained to sin and shame. You are able to choose each time to yield to God’s call on your life. There is no coercion but joyful cooperation with God.

Back into Slavery

When you are tempted to reject God’s grace and to pursue self-will again you have the freedom to do so. God will not trap you in His kingdom, as the devil traps you in the kingdom of darkness. God wants you to yield to Him as an act of your love for Him, with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.

If you choose to give in to selfish ambition, self-serving ideas and selfish independence God will let you run after those things. However, that very act of pushing off to gain new freedoms for yourself only brings you right back to a place of slavery to sin again.

When you serve sin, sin becomes your slave driver. Once you are back under the slavery to sin you are once again in line for all that sin’s kingdom is under, which is judgement, death and hell.

Choose Your Slavery

Your only choices are between slavery and slavery. You can be in bondage to the cruel slavery to sin, habits, shame, degradation, addiction and evil. Or you can be a love-slave to God, free within yourself, but willingly yielding yourself in service to God.

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