“As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
Ephesians 6:6b-7 NLT
We are “slaves of Christ”. The word “slave” is perhaps not the most popular way to describe us pilgrims. It has so many negative connotations, still lingering in our DNA, a stain left there due to the practices of our ancestors. Even today, examples of slavery, occasionally bubble up to surface in a media report. Sad tales of unfortunate people locked into a situation because the hold another person has over them. There are even tales of “slavery” occurring in a marriage, an unhappy husband or wife locked into a relationship from which there seems no escape.
So what does it mean to be a “slave”? First of all, we have to realise that slavery in Paul’s day had good and bad points. Of course, the bad included the loss of freedom and potential abuse, but in many cases the slave was treated as part of the family. He or she was fed, had the clothes they needed and a bed to sleep in. And we read in the Old Testament, about slaves who came to the end of their tenure and were due to be released, but chose instead to stay with their masters (Deuteronomy 15).
But to be a “slave of Christ”? Are there any bad points? The paradox we have is that as Christians, we are called “slaves of Christ” but in so being, we are set free. Free of sin and its consequences. Free of the worldly and dark practices so endemic around us. To be enslaved to God means we live in His ways, live with His people, submit to His will, and enjoy His protection. We are His possessions and have been elevated from the mundane into a position of royalty as part of His family. We are sons and daughters of the living God. So, back to our question – there are no bad points of being enslaved to Christ.
I remember an old Bob Dylan song and the chorus goes like this, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. In this life we will never be truly free in the absolute sense because we are bounded by our capabilities and our life-choices. If we don’t follow God then we are following the devil – there is no other choice, no other way. We can never escape from either – if we are not following God and His ways then, by default, we are following the devil and his ways. We may think we are following neither but the reality is as the song says – we will be enslaved to either God or the devil.
So as pilgrims in today’s war-torn world, struggling through the devil’s minefields on our way to our promised land, we must remember our status as royal sons and daughters of God our loving Father. Sin has defined our environment but we don’t have to be enslaved by it. Christ has set us free.