Christian slavery

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,


When the European settlers came to America and started planting cash crops they tried to make American Indians slaves, but most of them preferred death over slavery.

The word servant in Romans 1:1 literally means slave. Slavery has many negative connotations and rightfully so, but in the New Testament the word is often used in a positive sense. It is about dying to oneself and surrendering to Jesus Christ, and as such it expresses a full commitment to Jesus Christ.

In our natural state, most of use want to remain on our own throne. That is, we want to remain our own masters. There was a time when I was on the throne of my own life but made a mess of things. It was at my lowest point when I got on my knees and surrendered to Jesus Christ and made him my Lord and Savior. Genuine Christianity involves surrender; it involves dying to yourself; and as Paul has expressed it here, it requires becoming a slave.

For modern man this is strange, but in the ancient world slavery was widespread and common, and consequently God gave the Israelites certain precepts concerning the practice. For example, Israelites were instructed to let their Jewish slaves go after seven years of service but this created some complications. If the master had given a wife to a male slave, the slave had the option of going free or staying with his master and with this wife and children. (Exodus 21:1-6). So it is with the believer in Jesus Christ. No one compels us to surrender to Jesus Christ. Indeed, we are surrounded by unbelievers who have not surrendered. They will surrender — “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” — but because of our redemption we love Jesus Christ so much that we choose to be a servant, we choose to surrender. Exodus 21:5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

In my own life, I have struggled with a debilitating disease. For years I have been unable to work and there have been times when my mind was so muddled I could not remember my zip code. As I got better, I wondered if I would go back to work in computer science or in ministry. There are many benefits to going back to work in computer science: I would get paid more — a lot more; I would get health insurance, which is a real challenge when you have a pre-existing condition. But I realized that if I were ever able to think again, if I were ever to able to go back to work, it would have only been because of Jesus Christ — modern medicine never helped me; anyone who is very ill comes to realize that it is just you and the Lord (and Satan very much tries to delude you into believing you are alone). So I would have to be his slave, not out of compulsion but out of gratitude and love. Exodus 21:5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.

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