Follower or Slave?

Nov 5th 2017

Have you ever thought of yourself as a slave when you are a follower.  Slave is not a word that we like to be called. A follower sounds nice and makes us feel like we have more control in the matter.  Especially from the point of view as a Christian follower. Yet did you know that every time you  utter the word “Lord” you make  a subtle yet profound declaration that God is your Master and you belong to Him?  The word slave is a common word used for followers, so it only makes sense that Jesus is often called “Lord”.  To be completely honest as Believers we should consider ourselves slaves who were bought at a price.  Still this maybe hard for some to swallow.

Kyle Idleman in week two of the “Not a FAN” Bible Study talks about  Jesus invitation to “follow Him” is a “give up everything” invitation.  Just like how Matthew did in the Bible. When we read in the New Testament that Jesus is called “Lord” we equate that with His Divinity. We think of “Lord” as a synonym for “God”. But in the New Testament when followers refer to Jesus as Lord, that is not a reference to His divine status or his heavenly residence. The word that is translated as “Lord” in the New Testament is most often the word “Kurios”. It shows up hundreds of times. “Kurios” is a slavery word. It is the word given to the Master or owner of the slave.  The other word that you need to understand is the word “Doulos” which comes from ancient Greece. The most accurate translation of the word is “slave”. Really slave is the only way that it should be translated. That word appears about one hundred thirty times in the New Testament. However that word for various reasons usually is translated as “servant” in scripture. It means “bonded servant” which would mean a “slave”, but it has been simplified down to just servant.  The English word servant doesn’t do the Greek term justice. Bondservant is better, but still incomplete. The word in Greek is doulos. A doulos was a slave who was the property of the “slave master”.  There is a huge difference between a servant and being a “bonded servant” or “slave”. So the most literal and accurate way it translates is as “Slave”. That’s the way people in Jesus time would have understood it. There is a big difference between slave and servant in our times. A servant works for someone; a slave is owned by someone.  A slave by definition has no rights. A slave has no possessions to call their own. A slave in Jesus’ day didn’t even have a personal identity. A slave doesn’t get time off or get to clock out at the end of the day. A slave doesn’t get to negotiate. You can’t call Jesus “Lord” without declaring yourself as a follower, without being called His slave.

To many you may fight this title but  “slave” is the way many of the followers of Christ introduced themselves.  Peter began 2nd Peter  “Simon Peter, a slave” (NLT) John, Timothy, and Jude all give themselves the same title.  James begins his letter by saying “James, a slave of God and of the son of God.”  Paul writes in his letter to the Roman’s (when the wounds of slavery were still fresh), “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus” (NLT)

When we call Jesus ‘Lord” you aren’t saying ‘He’s the teacher and you’re the student.” You are saying ‘He’s the Master and I am the slave.” In that you are denying yourself, which is what being a follower of Jesus is really about.  When we accept the invitation to deny ourselves and follow Jesus we become His slaves. That’s a completely different way of looking at slavery. We think of slavery as something you’re forced into, but Jesus invites us to deny ourselves. Why would anyone want to be a slave?  Actually it was rare, but in the Old Testament we read of people who chose to be slaves. They were called “bondslaves.” These were people who were set free after being a slave but they decided they wanted to stay a slave. Deuteronomy 15:16-17 explains “ But if your servant says to you, ‘I do not want to leave you,’ because he or she loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his or her ear lobe into the door, and he or she will become your servant for life.” A bond slave is how many of the New Testament writers describe themselves. They had willingly become slaves.

Kyle sums it up in his book “not a fan” by saying this,  “Jesus invites you to deny yourself. He invites you to be a slave. But as a slave you need to hear about this Master.  He can take care of your needs this Master will protect you. He speaks and even the wind and the waves obey. This master has the power to forgive sins. If being a slave to sin has left you broken and bruised and you find your life in pieces, this Master can take the pieces of your life and turn them into something beautiful. Not only are we a slave to the Master but he makes you His son or daughter as well. He calls you a friend.”  We become Royalty. We become sons and daughters of the King; which makes us princes and princesses.

This idea of Jesus being our master ties in to those with addictions who are considered slaves to their addictions. It’s why many recovery programs use a spiritual aspect for the renewing of addicts. Jesus becomes their new Master.  Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and your addiction.” – Matthew 6:24. Whoever we are loyal to is the one that is our master. So as the slave it becomes our choice who we want our master to be.  ”Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Romans 6:16–18

What Paul is saying is that people start out being slaves to sin. We may not want to, but we obey the lusts of our hearts. Be it pride, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, etc., if we give in to these things, we will act in selfish, hurtful ways and thus will be labelled as slaves to sin. We cannot even do good because we obey our master, “Sin”. But if we have received the salvation that Jesus offers, He buys us with His blood. We belong to Him. We become his slaves. And as a slave of Christ Jesus, we have freedom! That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but when you live as a slave of Jesus, you will have true freedom because you can live out the purpose for which you were created: to enjoy and glorify God. Jesus is the best slave master possible and it is a joy to be His doulos.

That is why Paul can cheerfully declares of himself, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus”. A better translation would actually be: “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus”. It is a joyful thing indeed, to declare this. I will happily declares this as well: “Amos, a doulos of Christ Jesus”.

Jesus invites you to deny yourself. He invites you to be His slave. But as stated above being a slave for Jesus is different. As your Master he takes care of your needs and protects you. With Jesus as your master He takes your broken life and makes something beautiful. Now are you willing to deny yourself and be his slave and follow him?

Matthew R. Marshall