“…and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)
The bible pictures being a servant of Jesus in extremely strong language.
In the New Testament the use of the word servant can often be translated as the word slave. You can see the two uses of the word in the verses above.
One writer has talked about the distinction of a servant and slave in this way,
“While it is true that the duties of slave and servant may overlap to some degree, there is a key distinction between the two: servants are hired; slaves are owned. Servants have an element of freedom in choosing whom they work for and what they do. The idea of servanthood maintains some level of self-autonomy and personal rights. Slaves, on the other hand, have no freedom, autonomy, or rights. In the Greco-Roman world, slaves were considered property, to the point that in the eyes of the law they were regarded as things rather than persons. To be someone’s slave was to be his possession, bound to obey his will without hesitation or argument…” (MacArthur, Slave, 16-17)
To our modern ears the use of the word slave sounds harsh, ugly, and distasteful.
When we think of a slave or slavery we think of someone who is being used and abused for the profit of another. We think of sex slavery, the slavery of Africans for the promulgation of the United States, the slavery of young girls and women for the pleasure of ISIS fighters in the Middle East.
Slavery is not seen as a good thing. Nor has slavery ever been thought of as a good thing. It has constant negative connotations associated with it.
Yet, the word servant, as in being a servant of Christ, can also mean being a slave, being a slave for Christ.
And while we aren’t being used and abused by our perfect Heavenly Father there is a sense of the commitment and identity we now have when we are follower of Jesus.
When we are called and chose to follow Christ we are all in.
To be a believer in Christ is to not just assent to being a Christian of some description. No, to be a follower of Jesus means we sacrifice our whole lives to follow him.
Our entire being and soul and purposes are committed to follow Jesus.
There is no turning back.
When Jesus calls his first disciples we read in many of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke particularly, of how he instructed them to “come, follow me”.
The call to follow Jesus is not simply a call to come with me to the shops, or let’s go for a drive, or “c’mon, let’s go to the footy match”. The call to follow me is a costly call.
It is a call to slavery.
This slavery is not the slavery depicted above. This call to slavery is one that recognises that we are now servants to the Most High God. That we are at the beck and call of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yet, while this slavery is all that and more, it is really a freedom-giving, redemption-purchasing, forgiveness-finding kind of slavery. It is a kind of slavery that places us in a better position than we find our self otherwise. We find ourselves loved, adopted, and saved through being slaves of Jesus Christ.
In this way, our identity has changed from being about self to being about service.
Our identity is not defined by who we are in any way but by who he is.
Our identity is not determined by the failures we have but by the faithfulness of God.
Jesus calls us to follow him and in doing so calls us to a life of service. A life of slavery for the cause of Christ.
- What kind of thoughts come to mind when thinking about slavery?
- Have you thought about the cost of what it is to follow Jesus? What do you think that means for you?
- How can knowing being a slave for Jesus inspire you to greater works and commitment to follow him?
This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.