So, here’s my attempt at adding something during the season of Lent. In addition to fasting a few things, I was thinking about adding a couple of disciplines as well. I’m going to be posting the fruits of my interactions with some devotional texts with the goal of engaging more deeply and consistently in my own bible study life. I prayed and read this passage early this morning, and it’s now 9:15 at night. I want to see what the passage does after mulling it over all day. I’m writing this steam-of-thought, with hardly any editing, so I retain the right to retract some theologically bogus stuff I might end up saying. So here goes.
Romans 1:1-7: Paul, “Servant” of Jesus Christ. Here’s another in a long list of passages where the NIV and even the NRSV get it wrong. The Greek word is δοῦλος, boys and girls… and there’s only one way to translate that accurately: slave. Not servant or even bond-servant. It’s slave. The same word Paul uses when he says stuff like, “Slaves, obey your masters.” And here he uses it to describe himself in the second word of the book of Romans. Paul: Slave of the gospel. Normally “slave” has a negative context. “Slave” is the opposite of “free” (and we Americans sure do love our freedom…). Slave implies chains. Forced labor. No wages. Overseers. Whips. Little or no personal, individual identity. Someone ELSE owns you.
And Paul is a slave….
Set apart for the Good News of God. He’s a slave of the Good News. He cannot get away from it. It’s almost like he’s not his own anymore. It’s as if he’s been bought. And his life is now the property of Jesus, for Jesus to use as He pleases. It just so happens what Jesus is pleased to do is to appoint him to be an apostle of the Good News.
Then he says something that reminded me of the Ash Wednesday gathering last night: Jesus has been declared to be the Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead. Resurrection– Easter– was the confirmation of Jesus’ Lordship. And to get there, He had to go through death. Resurrection does not happen without death first. Jesus had do die, stripped of his personhood, hung with criminals, dying where we are, for Resurrection to happen.
I think we want Resurrection without the death part. I think we want the joys of Easter and all the blessings of the life it brings without first walking the way of the cross. I think too many of us, if we go to church, want to be uplifted, entertained, affirmed, patted on the back and sent out the door with a blessing… without ever dealing with the necessary death that precedes Resurrection. We want to be buddies with Jesus. We might even try to follow some of His moral and ethical guidelines. We FOR SURE want Him around when the crud hits the fan.
But I don’t think we’re so sure about this slave thing.
We’re not so sure about dying to who we are, so we can be re-made, renewed, and… re-born. I think Lent is becoming my favorite season of the year because I think I need reminded that I can’thave it both ways. I cannot be made alive in Christ until I die to myself.
“Be Thou my vision, o Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.” Lord, this season, teach me what it means, even more, to be completely dead to myself. I want to be Yours. Only then can You really use me for my intended purpose.