Sunday, July 5, 2015

Colossians 3:22-25 (MSG): Servants of Christ

Colossians 3:22-25 (MSG): Servants of Christ
Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.

Slavery was a cruel reality rampant in the first century world of Paul, so that he wrote about it merely reflects the truth of his context. But what Paul says about slavery directly applies to our role as servants of Christ.
Slaves, as Paul writes, are to serve their masters as if they are serving Christ: “The ultimate master you're serving is Christ.” The statement that slaves, no matter what their work, are to do it with sincerity or “work from the heart” is the exact attitude that we as servants of Christ must take. In every moment and station of life, our daily tasks should be done in Christ’s service. We should do our work, as Paul demands, to the best of our ability and from the depths of our heart. Why should we be so serious about the mundane tasks of our work and home life? We are not, as it may seem, merely serving our bosses and families; we are serving Christ.  Our vocation, no matter if we are a parent, teacher, businessperson, retail worker, or physician, is a vocation of service to God. When we face this reality, every task becomes an opportunity of service, love, and devotion to Christ. Every smile, every word of encouragement, every room cleaned, every meal prepared, every lesson taught, and every assessment graded is a moment of service.
The slavery of Paul’s time was harsh, cruel, and inhuman, and we must frame Paul’s words in that bleak context. Paul, as a result, addresses a demographic of Christian converts that need direction on how to live in the light of Christ while under the yoke of slavery.  Although our slavery is not dehumanizing or oppressive, it is a servant/master relationship, one that Paul wants everyone who hears the letter to envision.  
My vocation as a husband, father, and teacher is one done in the service and love of Jesus Christ.  I am his slave, and he is my master. Although I repeatedly fail, I try to live as if each moment and task are opportunities to love to God more. Jesus is my boss, administrator, supervisor, the master I serve.
Paul’s statement to slaves, therefore, is one that applies to our servant role of love to Jesus Christ in all we do. After all, Jesus himself took on the role of servant in order to exemplify the kind of divine love we should imitate:
For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. John 13:15-16 (RSV)