Thursday, April 24, 2014

Stepping Back.

2Corinthians 4:1  Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2  We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God's word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. 3  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5  For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. 6  For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7  But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

My thoughts for today are drawn to the following verse from the reading:
For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. (2Co 4:5) The word slave is translated from the Greek word  δολος – “devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests”.[1] I believe that Paul chose this word because he wants to make a point: that those who follow the way of Jesus must get used to being second. Jesus gets the spotlight and we step back into the shadows. We are at the command of Jesus, who gets to be the one in charge.

I saw an illustration of this last year when I caught the express train from Hiroshima to Osaka. The ticket examiner entered the carriage, took off his hat, and bowed to all the passengers. He welcomed us to the coach, and wished us a pleasant journey. Then he replaced his hat and proceeded to collect our tickets. This action on the part of the ticket examiner clarified our relationship: while he was wearing a smart uniform, with white gloves, and braided hat, he was not important. The passengers were important, and he was offering to assist our journey. So too with those who follow the way of Jesus: we exist for the sake of those who want to live life more fully. We are “your slaves – for Jesus sake”. 

The reality is that this is easier in ideal that in practice. The human ego is so hungry for affirmation that we mistake people’s respect and admiration for Jesus, as admiration given to us. Before we know it, we think that we are capable of running the Jesus-project: we specify the way people can follow Jesus; we control who is part of the family of Jesus; and we even go so far as to decide who Jesus might hate!  We have stopped being the “slaves”, and have become the “masters”.

Paul urges us to become the slaves – for Jesus sake. Let us return to slave status.

“People who don't like the idea of slavery think there's some middle ground — not being a slave to sin or Jesus — but there's no middle ground.” — J. Miles


Brother, Sister, let me serve you
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
Richard Gillard
Copyright © 1977 Scripture in Song

Second Sunday of Easter
Partakers of Eternal Life
Scripture reading taken from A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants p.148

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