Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 28 May 2020

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2:16 (NIV).

In the Lord, freedom is slavery.   Huh?

We’ve seen rioters on in our country this week; riots over the death of a man at the hands of a policeman.   Rioting isn’t freedom and living under police isn’t slavery.  Yet those police can’t be free to kill people and we of society can’t tolerate it when they do.   To do so would be to be enslaved by the police.

I’ve also been watching a documentary on U.S. Grant.   Grant was the most successful general in the Civil War, and one of the more upright, moral, and effective presidents in spite of the corruption by officials in his administration.  He opposed actual slavery, fought against the government instituted specifically to preserve it, and fought to end the persecution of former slaves.

In Peter’s time, slavery was still a real and accepted norm.  Peter’s people, the Jews, had been slaves in Egypt a thousand years before, and they were enslaved to the Romans in Judea “now.”   Then as now, slavery was seen as a moral evil.   Yet it was accepted that those who were conquered were enslaved.  Their rights were taken away.   They became forced labor, property, unequal.  

And yet Peter tells us to live as God’s slaves; to openly, enthusiastically live as free people because the truth of Jesus’ salvation has set us free.   Indeed, there is no freedom, secular or not, without the saving grace of Christ.  Yet in the very same sentence, Christ’s right-hand-man implores us to live as slaves to Jesus.

Huh?

In the verses immediately prior to this one, Peter tells us to submit ourselves to all authorities, even the police, even the corrupt government that wants to physically enslave us.   Even slave owners.  Peter isn’t telling us to live in favor of slavery, but he’s telling us that God is at work through slavery.   It is we people who tolerate slavery, but it is God who works His will through even our toleration of this and other evils. 

So, Peter tells us to take the example of being enslaved to an evil concept – human chattel – and use it as our example for following Christ.   To be owned by Christ.   To submit everything, body and soul, to Christ.   To give up all freedom, even the freedom He gives us, to Him.   To understand that even when we are abused, we allow this to happen out of submission to Him.

May God today move our hearts to remember this as we try to respond to things happening in our world.   Men like Grant fought against slavery.   And there are those in our world today who are still being wronged, even killed.   We need to stand for them, but peacefully, in slavery to Christ, as He would.  As He does.

For further reading:  Romans 6:22, Peter 2:17

Lord Jesus, I’m Your slave.   Work peace in us today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 31 January 2019

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.  1 Timothy 6:1 (NIV).

Slavery was officially outlawed in the United States on Dec 6, 1865 when Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.  That amendment was ratified in less than a year; 309 days, and only 240 days after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.  Yet 154 years later, slavery is still a sore subject in America for many reasons.

Did you know that, even under slavery, black culture was the most devout, Christian culture in the nation?  As a matter of fact, all through out the history of America, it is the African American community that has held closest to the core values of Christianity.  That’s an amazing fact, and an amazing testament to both the power of Jesus Christ and the strength of character of good people who were subjugated but followed Jesus anyway.   Today, much time in our society, especially in our popular culture, is devoted to doing what we can to make amends for the national sin of slavery, even though it ended so many generations ago.   Why is that?

Perhaps the answer to that is found in re-reading verse 1.  How could any people not feel the guilt of history on them when they see that those subjugated as slaves often kept Paul’s hard advice better than the advantaged population that subjugated them?  Indeed, it’s a tough thing to do, considering your ‘masters’, often regarded as adversaries, worthy of respect.   Yet that’s what Paul asks us to do.

Indeed, slavery was commonplace in Paul’s time.   The Romans and Greeks conquered vast reaches of territory and enslaved those they conquered (if they even let them live).  Every nation in history, up to that point, had practiced and known slavery.   To break the cycle of hatred, Jesus commanded us to respect our masters, giving them honor as God’s representatives.   A slave master God’s representative?   Yes.

That is nether an acceptance nor toleration of slavery.   It’s simply a way of honoring God by honoring the people put over us.   Not many people in America are enslaved today; that 13th Amendment outlawed it.   Yet a dishonorable truth is that slavery – human trafficking, prostitution, drug runners, even people in common workplaces – still does indeed exist in the United States.  In fact, it exists in many areas of the world.   We who aren’t enslaved should use our righteous position to work against slavery.   And when we do encounter it, it’s up to us to remind those afflicted to give God honor in all aspects of their lives so that they may draw nearer to Him in true freedom.

For further reading: Ephesians 6:5, Titus 2:5 & 8, Colossians 3:22-24, 1 Timothy 6:2.

Lord, Your example is for us to not enslave others.   Help us to honor you by honoring those above us, even our ‘masters.’