“Hi, I’m a slave.”
Awkward way to begin a letter to a church, isn’t it? Yet, it is how Paul opened his letter to the people he loved at a town called Philippi – the letter is Philippians. He writes,
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 1:1).
The word he used for “servants” is literally, “bond-servants” and can mean “slave.” Although a slave was despised in the broader culture, for Jews this concept was not associated with any degree of shame or embarrassment, in fact, it was an honor and privilege. For the Jews it came to mean simply “servant” without any connotation of bondage. It carried the idea of giving yourself up to another's will, and being devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests.
If you are a servant, you serve someone or something. For every servant, there is a corresponding Lord of some kind.
What made the typical slave shameful, in the eye of the first century Jew, was that he/she had no choice. Their culture prized the right of personal choice and despised those who did not have that.
In the eyes of their culture, choice made the station of a servant honorable.
Paul willingly became a servant of Jesus – his Lord. It was an honor for Paul to choose this type of service and he did so voluntarily (with a little help from a divine nudge in Acts 9).
Paul never complained, because he chose to follow Jesus. He chose to serve Jesus as his Lord. And he suffered much.
Paul could have written lengthy diatribes against the corruption of the Roman government. About how the Christians we’re unfairly marginalized, even capture and imprisoned. He could have spent his time, talent and treasure in pursuit of comfort.
But, he was honored to serve Jesus in a broken, unfair, hostile culture – and to do so with thankfulness and joy. He spent his time, talent and treasure pursuing Jesus and gospel related kingdom issues.
Have you chosen to be a servant of Jesus? Are you finding joy in that, in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation?