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Knave, or Slave?

A short while ago one of our readers, Dave, was bothered when I quoted someone, in my post entitled Panic as saying, "I obey him because I am a slave and he is a King."

Dave wrote:
I've come back and re-read this post a couple of times, not commenting because I didn't want to seem negative. But I realize that I like it, on my blog, when people disagree.

I have to say, the 'I obey him because he is a king and I am a slave' really really really bothers me. I don't think God asks for subserviance or a King / Slave relationship as it exists in this world.

I have always believed that Jesus stood up to those in power - as necessary and questioned authority - as was his mission. I worship God as a free man, not as a slave. I give God my love as a free man, not as a peon. I give God my praise as a free man, not as a sycophant.

I think asking any person who has ever been enslaved - in this life on this earth - you will not hear words of love about their 'king'. I wonder if this kind of language diminishes the experience of many and serves only to be a boastful kind of self depreciation. You know I love this blog and I'm only writing this because that really really got to me.

I tried to reply in the blog post entitled, For My Friend. It was my attempt at using story to make the point, but I think that I was so indirect that the point was not well made. And so I've continued to think on and off about how to explain what I think the person meant.

As a writer I have failed when I plonk a statement such as the one about slavery, out there without context or elaboration so I am glad that Dave made the point that it bothered him, because if it bothered him, it probably bothered others.

There is a good explanation of what lay behind the statement I quoted, on another blog: The title of the piece in the link is, The "Backward" Wisdom of God; Freedom and Slavery. The writer, Gary DeLashmutt, makes the point that "key biblical truths often seem backward, counter-intuitive, contrary to common sense--even crazy..." He goes on to write about Freedom from Slavery; Freedom for Slavery, and Freedom through Slavery.

I recommend that people check out Gary's article, because it is excellent and he does a wonderful job of explaining, much better than I could, the fact that we are freed from the yoke of sin by Christ--the bondage of knavery, if you like; freed from slavery to the law and to other people. Yes, as Dave wrote, we are free.

But although we are free, Christ calls us to freely become his slaves out of love for him. The "backward" wisdom of God, indeed. In fact, he himself took on the form of a servant:

Philippians 2:5-7 (The Message)
5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Galatians 5:13 (New International Version)
13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

1 Peter 2:16 (New Living Translation)
16 For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.

Dave--does it make more sense now? I hope so!


Night Owl said…
It makes sense to me. That's a great article. Very interesting... And, well, it makes sense... We can freely, willingly become God's slaves... It's not that He would ever treat us as "slaves" the way humans define that word. God loves us, and if we become His slave, then we love Him, and only do things for Him. And we will be safe with Him then... right? Because He would protect all his followers just as a shepherd takes care of his sheep.
But I guess the word "slave" just sounds kind of harsh because of its definition used for humans whom are enslaved to other humans, which would be entirely different as that is an involuntary action of the part of the person enslaved by the "godless" person who has no right to do such things...
No, we can choose freely whether or not to become God's slave, I think. :)
Belinda said…
Night Owl, I'm so glad you read the article and that it made sense. You summed it up well.
Anonymous said…
I agree with Dave especially if you have experienced the slavery that Dave is talking about, and I do not think that is the same slavery the Lord is talking about. Sorry I understand Dave's point of view.
Belinda said…
Yes, that's the great thing about talking about these things. I'm glad Dave expressed his point of view, and I can understand it too, totally.
Blessings friend and thanks for your comment.
Anonymous said…
As you know I don't often comment on our posts but I couldn't resist this one. I read your blog this morning and I couldn't help but see how the world has mananged to, yet again, twist something that God intends for His glory and try to making it something terrible. The term SLAVERY has been twisted much like the term SUBMIT. For much of my married life I have resisted the scripture that told me to submit to my husband. Yet when the term is understood in the same context as Christ submitted to His Father's will the word submit becomes beautiful thing.

John the Baptist said that he was not worthy to be His slave (Matt. 3:11) Whether we like it or not we are all slaves! The amazing thing about freedom in Christ is that we can choose. Are you a slave to sin or a slave to Christ? There are only two options and both involve slarvery. I thank God every day that He sees me as worthy of being His slave.

~Susan B.
Anonymous said…
Okay, I ment to say YOUR posts not OUR posts. Sorry about that!
Anonymous, the world hasn't 'twisted' the word 'slavery' history has, take a walk - like I have - through the International Slavery Museum - and try to think of slavery as a good metaphor for anything but pain. I think when one is of the 'race' of owners one should be sensitive to the needs of the 'owned'. I cannot, and will not, use the image of slavery as a loving one. I 'get' what people are saying and I understand that the context and the intent are about a willing submission to another ... but the word 'willing' takes away the essential nature of what it is to be a slave ... one of my favourite black hymns from years ago has, as its chorus, "In heaven no more auction block, no more master's lash" a picture of heaven as an end of tyranny and the beginning of welcome ... into that picture I am not going to introduce the picture of 'jolly or joyful slavery'. But that's me, that's how I write, that's how I see things, I can appreciate others have differing views. Even so, I wonder how this would all be viewed by a grandchild of slavery?
Night Owl said…
Dave, I just don't see how you could say that! God would never mistreat us the way a human slave owner would mistreat his slaves. It's a completely different meaning with God. God is not human. So to use a human definition of slavery to try to define the way He works is not fitting.
If we want to become a slave of God, then it is completely our choice. God cannot buy us or capture us.
Maybe servant is a better word, though, in order to not offend some people... But still, the point is only that we would serve only God... Do good in His name... And avoid temptation to do in the name of something else, avoid temptation of the Enemy... That's why I think slave kind of works better than servant... Because slave means that you are only willing to do good and for God only... Servants are still free to do serve others like the Enemy...
Anyway, that's my two cents. sigh... I think we are making this way more complicated than it actually is though... As it is probably in the nature of humans to do. :)
Cardinella said…
OK, I can't resist on this one, either. These comments I originally sent to Belinda privately, but I would like to post my two cents.

Dear Belinda,
I have thought about this language issue a lot lately, especially with postmodern Christians not getting some of the lingo.
I have come to see that while there is no deviation from Christ's message, there is room for language. We have to think context. Jesus spoke to slaves, kings, farmers, housewives, and ALWAYS used their vernacular. That's why the parables have such potency. Let's think about who we are these days -- employees, stay at home moms, working moms, assembly line workers, cashiers, waiters, doctors, orderlies, etcetcetc.

Kings these days have little power, little responsibility and little authority. If you said the relationship is like that of boss and employee, or governor and citizen, it would probably not rankle in quite the same way.

The message and content are the same, but since the context differs the language must as well.

What a thoughtful post, by the way,
Nightowl, so you are ok with going out and telling people that Jesus is like a slave owner, a nice one, but a slave owner. Good luck with that message ... I'm staying with loving father and devoted child.
Joyful Fox said…
Hi All,

I have been pondering this post for the past two days. Incidentally, I struggled too with the concept of slave on the initial writing, even though I fully understood the context.

I have heard both sides before as I am now.
The verse that has come to mind over and over again is in I John 3:1

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.

The whole chapter has beautiful imagery and truths for us who are His children.

Several years back, my husband and I had conversations about "slaves of God vrs. Sons of God"
Through study, he came up with a conclusion that we are "Sons", with all the rights and responsibilities that "sonship" entails. Slavery is not the same as sonship. The love of Christ frees us (see Ephesians 2:15)
Jason felt that sometimes we act like slaves, as Christians but that is ours to change.

I thought that was an interesting conclusion and I see both sides. I remain on a fence as I've looked up no Greek or Hebrew or have studied little on it.

John the Baptist said, He was not worthy to be Christ's slave. None of us are. In humility, John the Baptist felt that way, in light of his own unworthiness. Perhaps, at times we do too.
I'm not sure Christ requires us (or John the Baptist) to be slaves.

The apostle Paul talks of making our bodies (the carnal flesh and our lusts) slaves. We beat our bodies into submission, taking thoughts captive, and we put to death, the lusts of the flesh, being alive to Him and dead to sin.

However God calls his children. The whole book of Ephesians talks about the fact that we are fellow heirs of Christ, fellow citizens with the saints.

We are beloved children, because of His rich abundant, lavish, grace.

There are many mysteries this side of heaven which we will debate until our time on earth is done.

I am thankful that we can differ in opinion and share our thoughts and His love is great enough for us to question.
Night Owl said…
Well, I give up. Besides, I believe that it's enough to have a God/human relationship with God. We don't really need to compare that to any human/human relationship... It's nothing like a boss/employee relationship, nothing like a slave owner/slave relationship, and sometimes even nothing like a father/child relationship. Some parents don't know how to treat kids, you know? (i.e. Some kids are abused everyday by people who should love them and care for them.) So I have difficulty thinking about my relationship with God in comparison to my relationship with my (human) father. It's not really fair of us to compare God to anything like that anyway...
N.Owl said…
So I CAN sympathize with people who aren't happy about the word "slave" being used.

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