The word 'slave' brings up many negative connotations. Suppressed, abused, captive, mistreated, lonely, dirty, weak and weary. It makes me thing of cruel, unloving, cold hearted masters who laugh at the pain of their labourers. It's true- slaves of the world are probably not the most benefited people you'll meet.
People are slaves to drugs, to immorality, to lying, to cheating... they're addicted. People are slaves to those they love, and want to be loved by. They scamper around, completely under the influence of their master, and doing everything in their power to please them, and to earn their love. I don't believe it works that way.
So, why on earth would Paul write that he was a slave of Christ? How could he think that it would be an appealing analogy to the unbelievers? Well first off, I hesitate to call it an analogy because in reality, it's the full-blown truth. It's the literal fact of who he is. Let's take a look on why he chose to reveal himself as a slave.
Dictionary.com says that a SLAVE is:
-a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another.
-a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person.
Okay... so, if that "another" or "person" in the above definitions is found out to be... alcohol, then that definitely is bad. Unwholesome, and unhealthy. Imagine you were looking at those definitions for the first time, and the last word was substituted with a problem you are dealing with. "A person who is the property of and wholly subject to _________." Basically, you could just enter 'sin' and it would be realistic enough. "a person entirely under the domination of sin."
Honestly though, I don't believe Paul had any of those thoughts in his head as he wrote his letters. He was simply someone SO in love with God, that there was no other legitimate way to describe his relationship with him! Child, son, daughter, friend, those are all true. But slave? The first thought that came to my head when I read Romans 1:1 wasn't exactly very positive. ~
This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ, chosen by God to be an
apostle and sent out to preach the good news.
Hm. He's a slave of Christ, eh? Jesus captured him and forced him to do His work, hmm?? Paul is laboriously working for God's benefit in harsh conditions, with danger around every turn? Interesting.
But, wait. Let's look at those 'slave' definitions again. Instead of filling in the blank with 'sin,' or another problem, let's fill it in with what Paul did.
-a person who is the property of, and wholly subject to Christ.
-a person entirely under the domination and influence of Christ.
The more I look at it that way, the more it makes sense! Who wouldn't want to be the property of an eternal Father? Who wouldn't want to be completely under the influence of a loving, forgiving, and perfect God? Since Paul was a diehard slave of One so loving and compassionate, it makes sense that Paul would go to the extremes for this Master of his.
Slaves are bought. In the olden days, they were traded, or sold at auctions to the highest bidder. Maybe slaves are bought at bars, or illegally. Maybe they're bought through the compromise of fundamental ethics. But slaves of Christ, they were bought, too. They were bought through the blood of Christ, himself. He didn't pay with phony or dirty money. He didn't pay with rotting, finite bills. He paid with His life. Sounds like quite the switcharoo, doesn't it?
In Romans 1:1, it says that Paul was chosen by God. That clicks into place too, doesn't it? Slave masters pick out the slaves they want. The ones that are nimble, strong, healthy, and can get the job done. God chose us, too. The difference is, He chose us even when we were still sinners. He chose us when we were the filthy liars and cheaters. He chose us, and called us to himself. For example, Paul the Apostle, himself! He was one of the the biggest Christian-haters of his time. He stood by the execution of another slave of Christ, Stephen. And yet, look who Christ picked out to accomplish a vast amount of His work!! It's not the way the world works- good thing.
I chose to write on this topic because the idea of being a servant has been wandering its way around in my mind for a while now. In just two days, I will be off on a short-term missions trip. Down south we're going, to the tropical Central American lands of Guatemala. We've been training and preparing and yet, there's some work still to be done- mainly heart issues.
I want to be a slave of Christ. Being poured out completely because I love my Master so much- that's a dream come true... in theory. When the immediate opportunity arises to prove my loyalty to Christ, I often back out. It's yet another difference between worldly slavery and divine slavery. If an earthly slave disobeys his master, he is severely beaten, perhaps; stereotype slave masters would often abuse their slaves. With divine slavery- you're really just abusing yourself every time you skip out on God's knocking opportunities for you.
We are going to Guatemala to serve; to serve God by serving others. If I'm a servant of God, who am I serving? The answer is obviously God. But sometimes, I have to ask myself that very question. Thoughts will come into my head. What can I get out of this trip? I hope people notice what I do and remember it. I wonder if something cool will happen to me....
What is wrong with those thoughts? Everything. If this was a vacation, a typical, worldly vacation, and I wasn't a Christian- those would be pretty expected thoughts. But this is a missions trip. It's a trip for God. The specific issue with those thoughts is that they are totally not focused on the reason for the trip!! They're focused instead on me. Me, me, me. Suddenly, it's not a missions trip anymore. The moment I start to think about how the trip can benefit me, my heart changes from a servant's to a master's. Personally, I would not make a good master. So why do I let myself take charge? It doesn't end well.
If everyone, including myself, agrees that the purpose of this trip is to serve God- I think I should be the last person on my mind. J-O-Y, J-O-Y, this is what it means: Jesus FIRST, yourself LAST, and others in between. It's a simply rhyme- but a tricky life application.
I've been praying for this trip. Praying that my eyes are not focused on myself, but focused dead ahead to my Slave Master, Jesus Christ. He's the One who gave His own life to chose me, what have I done that's worthy of attention? I've been praying for Him to humble me for a long time. It's hard in Canada where we have so much and can get anything we want so instantaneously. Being humbled isn't fun. But it's necessary. And technically... it's natural.
John 3:30 ~ He must become greater; I must become less.
2 Corinthians 12:10 ~ That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in troubles I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
So what kind of things are making you hold your head a little higher than it ought to? What kind of things are tricking you into believing that you are your own master? Because, truth me told, if you are a slave to anything on this earth, it can't be good. A slave to anything or anyone other than God will end in disaster. It's bondage.
That includes slavery to yourself.