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.
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.