What is the difference between being a slave and a servant? Slaves are bought, they are subject to one master who has complete control over that slave, their will is becomes subject to the will of the master. Servants, however, are not bought, but receive a wage and have control over whether or not they stay in order to serve. Why is it that Paul writes in Romans 6:18, that we are slaves to righteousness? Do we not consider ourselves "servants" of Christ? Should we instead be thinking of ourselves as "slaves" as Christ? And if indeed, we see ourselves as "slaves" to Christ, how does our relationship with Christ change? Let's think back to the differences between a slave and a servant, how do these definitions change our perspective?
First of all, slaves are bought and bound. We cannot deny the fact that once we accept Christ, we have acknowledged that price that He paid and that while we are no longer bound to death, yet we still find ourselves fighting the ties of sin. And while we yearn to be bond completely in Christ, we find ourselves wrapped in the chains of the flesh.
And yet, time and time again, we are reminded of our freedom that we now have in Christ. We talk of not being under the law, but free to love under the law of grace. We talk of being slaves to Christ, but free in His righteousness. Are we free slaves? It seems to be easier to think of us as slaves to sin and then we become a free people because Christ paid for us on the cross and released us from our slavery. Is that not the picture of the Israelites in slavery under Pharaoh? And yet, while there is truth in that, could the picture not also be of us as slaves to sin, bought by Christ, and then while we were freed from the price of sin, we became slaves to Christ in protection of sin and death? Perhaps this idea of slavery is more akin to the slave days of America old, where slaves where auctioned off by their old masters to a new master whose law and rule they would have to submit too. I can see the poor slave led shackled to the podium, timid by the mere sight of their old, cruel master. I like to picture that their face lights up when they hear the kind, yet authoritative voice of Christ as He yells out His bid. The slave knows that he will remain a slave, but knows that he will also be living under a new law with a kind, loving master. Is this a more complimentary view of what happens to us on the threshold of salvation? Are we put on the block by our master of death, punishment, and sin? Opened then to the bidding of those present, and to our hope and happiness, we are bought by the Master of Creation? And in being bought, the chains that bound us to death, are passed to the new Master, who breaks them, and declares us a new slave? A slave of grace and mercy?
I guess in the end, we are left with this duality of discipleship. We are not necessarily freed slaves or free slaves. We cannot be freed slaves because we still have a master, and we cannot be free slaves because we came with a price. Therefore the conclusion of this duality has to be that we are slaves with freedom. We find ourselves enslaved to Christ, but the irony is that the only true freedom lies within Christ. The only true freedom from sin and hell are through Christ. We enslave ourselves to be free. In our minds, this is entirely against human nature. We have this negative connection to slavery, when in reality, slavery can be a positive thing. Perhaps we think of shackles in only a Charles Dickens Marley and Marley context, when perhaps these chains that bounds us to Christ are like the chains we wear around our necks and affix the two perpendicular lines in a primary shape of redemption and salvation. Perhaps our chains to Christ are like our cross necklace that announce to the world our connection and belief in the cross of Christ.
Perhaps in the end, we must remember that our discipleship is our conforming to Christ. He becomes our Master as we become the slave and we breath to serve Him. We cannot serve Jesus as our lord unless we are slaves. Jesus cannot be a Master without slaves. Just as there can be no redemption without sin, we must first be slaves to sin before we can be slaves to righteousness as Paul wrote. Without a price to be paid, there can be no purchase, without the punishment of sin, there can be no Savior, without the chains of sin, there can be no chains of righteousness. We must recognize in our relationship that we were enslaved, we were condemned, we were unable to save or free ourselves, we were heading for hell. But then we were bought, we were loosed, we were freed, we were conformed, we are enslaved. Just as Paul writes in Philippians, that Jesus took on the appearance of a slave, humbling himself, if we want to be Christlike, we must be slaves. We must bound ourselves to Christ. Slaves to God bring Holiness (Romans 6:22), Holiness is conforming to Christ, conforming to Christ is to conform to slavery (Philp. 2:5-8), to conform to slavery is to gain Holiness, to gain Holiness is to be Christlike, to be Christlike is to be Christian, Q.E.D. to be Christian is to be a slave.