Who Wants To Be A Slave

Human trafficking is a blight on society, and no period in American history is more reprehensible than the years of legalized slavery before the Civil War. But the Bible records a thing called bond-slavery, which turns out to be a sort of voluntary slavery for life.

There were various reasons a person in the Old Testament times might choose to be a bond-slave, but the significant thing is, this is the term the New Testament writers frequently use in connection with the Christian.

Peter, for example, says, “Act as free men, but do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God. (1 Peter 2:16)

Christ, of course, said we are no longer servants but sons, heirs of the kingdom. And yet, apparently we are to use our freedom–our release from the bondage of the Law–for God in a way that serves Him as opposed to serving ourselves.

One of the things that sets Christians apart from those involved in other religions is this unique relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. He adopts us as sons and we are to act like bond-slaves. He gives us an inheritance and we show Him love with our obedience.

Who signs up for this? Don’t sons get to revel in their kingly father’s wealth and power and prestige?

The thing is, being a bond-slave to someone who has your best interest at heart is not burdensome.

Still, it rubs the independent-minded, free-spirited American the wrong way to say, become a Christian so you can be God’s slave for life.

Maybe the metaphor of the cross is easier. You know, take up your cross and follow me. Except, the cross was an instrument of death. Other scripture confirms this point. Christians are to die to self, to the world, to sin.

Bond-slave or death. Neither one sounds like something you’d put on the slick media release when you’re trying to get thousands and thousands to sign up for your cause.

But that’s the thing. Christianity isn’t a cause. It’s adoption, with God as the Father who called, chose, brought us into His family. Our response? I’ll be His bond-slave.

Yes, I have all the privileges of a child, but not a spoiled one. One that is growing and maturing in order to be a true reflection of my Father. The only way that can happen here, what with my sin nature, is if I live as a bond-slave.

It’s one of those amazing things that God alone can do–Christians are not burdened by laws; we are freed and forgiven. Yet, now that we don’t have to do anything to be reconciled to God, we want to serve Him in joyful, thankful response.

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. I recall seeing in a commentary a while ago that there is a complexity to this comment that is not at first apparent. Slaves to the emperor had incredible power – in fact, more than most free and wealthy men. They could act on his behalf and were entrusted with great initiative. (Obviously great dangers also applied if you displeased some of the Roman emperors.) However, the point the commentary made was this: if a slave to the emperor had so much power, how much more so would a slave to God?
    So Paul’s comment is much more complex than it appears.


  2. Becky, you really know how to hit the nerve of a topic! I can almost see you in biology–that is, if that pre-dated your enjoyment of the Lewis Trilogy–but I digress. Forgive me, if I cover too many of the same things. I am trying to land this plane, but I may have to circle a little, first.

    All through the Scripture, there is this strange theme, of nobodies becoming somebodies, first with second-born children out-shining their first-born siblings, then with outsiders becoming insiders, and this picture of late-comers, poor, lame, blind, immobile, and generally, rejected people, including Jesus, becoming somehow absolutely critical to the well-being of everyone concerned.

    Interestingly, both the Hebrews and the Greco-Romans had a similar thing happening with slaves. Abraham was planning to have “one born in” his “house” become his heir, before Isaac was born. In the New Testament, Paul used the analogy of a Roman slave, who had been tutored deliberately to become an heir, to explain the beggarly relationship of the law, (the Tutor), to Grace, a position of self-control, motivated by love.

    The stronger theme, perhaps because I am more familiar with it, is in the Hebrew history, where a man so loves his master and the family that he has, under his master, that he literally allows his master to nail his ear to the door! This rather officially started the practice of ear piercing, I would think, but not at all for decorative purposes. I suspect that one thing that set the Hebrews apart from their neighbors is the way that God monitored slave-owning, especially in the respect of redemption. Hebrews owned indentured slaves, slaves that could be bought out of slavery, even by serving the required term, so a slave didn’t always have to stay. The unspoken word in the slave’s heart is gratitude.

    Perhaps this other concept that seems so important here, began with Joseph. I don’t know. But, when the Israelites were in Goshen and the famine became really severe–so severe that they had already sold everything they had, in order to buy food, they offered themselves to be sold, into slavery, to the Pharoah, and they served until everyone had forgotten Joseph. Apparently, they were the first serfs. The remarkable thing was that, in the beginning, they were extremely grateful, because Joseph saved their lives. To this day, you might say the Jews have an undying gratitude to Moses, who was used by God to help them escape the tyranny of Egypt, at the time.

    Somewhere, (I know it’s in old movies) I have received the distinct notion that, when someone saves your life, you are indebted to them, even to becoming a slave to them, for life. This is where Christians come in. Jesus laid down His Life for mine, so “my” life is no longer “mine.” “Herein is Love . . .”

    It is nothing but the Genius of God, to call us, in such a winsome way, to our original position of creation, before the forbidden fruit, so we can experience our creatureliness, releasing our hold on control.

    What concerns me is that I am hearing this vital concept, less and less, as if no one else thinks about it, at all. Do we know we owe? Can we guess, how much? Will we relinquish the idol of control to the One Who only controls for our good? If only we were so smart!

    It is only in that carefree bondage that we can become the Heir of all things, the one who, like Christ, has it all, and chooses to lay it down, for others.


  3. Great observation, Anne. I had in mind the Old Testament bondslaves and the Law that set up that system, but when Paul and Peter were writing, undoubtedly the term was understood as much in the Roman context as it was the Old Testament context.

    I like the concluding analogy–if a Roman slave had that much power, how much more would God give us? It fits with other passages.



  4. Peggy, wonderful post. I should just create a guest article out of it. 😀

    Seriously, this issue of control is huge. I struggled writing this post because whenever I tried to reconcile the concept of slavery, it seemed so distasteful. How could a loving God what to make us slaves?

    The key, I think, is us wanting to be His slaves rather than Him wanting to make us slaves. He wants to make us children.

    It’s what we see in Christ’s parable of the prodigal. The messed up boy came to his senses and determined to return to his father as a servant. In so humbling himself his father bestowed on him the rights and privileges of sonship.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to post. I especially love your identification of a key Biblical theme:

    this strange theme, of nobodies becoming somebodies, first with second-born children out-shining their first-born siblings, then with outsiders becoming insiders, and this picture of late-comers, poor, lame, blind, immobile, and generally, rejected people, including Jesus, becoming somehow absolutely critical to the well-being of everyone concerned.



  5. In the early 1970s I was the editor of a Jesus People newspaper which we called Free Slave.


    • Love it, Ken. What a great title. It shows the “contradiction” that God turns into reality.



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