Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Slaves for Christ - February 22, 2011

Good Tuesday morning! Revolution in Libya, Iranian ships in the Suez, and another earthquake in New Zealand. The signs continue around the world. Did you see the news that a couple of Libyan fighter pilots took their planes and defected rather than fire on their own people? That is a brave act as there is no guarantee when you take off that another country will let you land your plane. It is also a brave act to defy your own nation's orders. Even if the current regime is removed from power, the pilots may never be welcomed back. Yet, firing on their own people could have made them wanted criminals under a new government. What would you or I do in their place? Not so easy to answer that one.

In the Bible we find another interesting question. Onesimus the slave ran away from Philemon his master. Paul called slaves to be obedient to their masters so that by their example the masters might be saved in Christ. But Onesimus had heard the good news of Christ and very much wanted to be a free man. Paul sent him back to his master. What? Are we not made free in Christ? Paul also wrote on our responsibility to our governments. It would seem that Paul didn't bring political revolution in his message. Rome and its slavery would exist for some time after Philemon and Onesimus were long gone from the earth.

Today, we look back on the slavery in our own country with a sort of collective guilt. Politicians and others like to sprinkle their speeches with phrases like "this great nation", but this nation hasn't always acted 'great' in its affairs. When we look back in our history at the conditions of slaves, we shy away from using that word in the Bible. Last week and into this week, John MacArthur has been speaking on the Greek word 'doulos'; what is translated as slave or bondservant. The New Testament uses the word more than one hundred times; I counted 107 in my Strong's, but may have missed some. Yet what word did you read growing up with the various Bible translations? Right, servant. We don't like to use the word 'slave' and we don't like the thought of becoming one. As usual we miss the target.

When looking at the condition of slaves in our history, we are quite right in not wanting to become that for Christ. But Jesus told us to look to him, not the world's perversion of something used in the Bible. The fault of the slaves' condition in the old South was not an indictment of the slaves, but of the masters. Becoming a slave or bondservant to Christ will never result in the evil things we have read in the historical accounts of the way slaves' masters sometimes acted in the antebellum South. We admit that Christ paid the ransom to save us, but something in us resists admitting that he now owns us. This rebellion is the slavery we are born under, original sin. Jesus paid the price to redeem us, but we are like the fearful slave cowering in the dark shadows behind our former master who abused us, afraid that nothing new can be any better. How wrong that old nature within us can be!

Jesus reassured us in His Word that his yoke is easy and his burden light. Many a person has feared the infamous "mission to the Congo" before accepting the grace that is our salvation in Christ. However, every person I have met who has actually gone on a mission trip has felt the call, often even before he or she surrendered to Christ. In other words, the call to missions was never something they feared, but something they looked forward to. I will gladly name myself a slave of Jesus Christ. The fearful connotations and associations we have with the word come from the lies of the world - not from our new Lord and Master, Jesus.

Enjoy the new day in Christ!


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