“And I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less?” II Corinthians 12:15
Here’s how Oswald Chambers expresses the above verse in today’s (2/23/11) reading from “My Utmost for His Highest”:
“‘I will spend myself to the last ebb for you; you may give me praise or give me blame, it will make no difference.’ So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.”
We are to be slaves to anyone who doesn’t know Jesus; not just doesn’t know about Jesus, but doesn’t know Him. We “churchophiles” often get this wrong. We make ourselves slaves to each other; trying to impress each other and put ourselves in each others’ good graces.
I believe this happens because most of the personal attacks against Christians come from other Christians. Think about it. When was the last time any of us were attacked personally for being a Christian? I’m not talking about the very real persecution that occurs in some countries. If you have access to the internet and can read my blog you probably live in a place of relative privilege regarding persecution of Christians.
Sure, there is plenty of corporate “persecution” against Christians from the new militant atheists like Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens, but when was the last time any of us experienced a real verbal attack from any of them or their followers. I’d be willing to place a substantial wager that the last personal attack any of us experienced was from a “brother or sister in the Lord.”
My thought here is that we make ourselves slaves to other Christians so that we won’t be attacked by other Christians. We try to say the right things, we’re passive-aggressive (see Bob Hostetler’s post: A 21st Century Church Epidemic), we worry what each other thinks about styles of worship, we have “roast pastor/worship-leader/Bible-study-leader” for Sunday dinner, etc.
We’re not to be slaves to other Christians. We’re to be lovers of other Christians:
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
This isn’t a command, by the way. It’s a litmus test. It’s an “if-then” statement. If you’re Jesus’ disciples, then you will love one another. If you’re not loving each other, then you’re not His disciples. Loving (agape) each other isn’t something that takes effort, it’s what should naturally occur when we’re attached to the vine. A grape doesn’t have to work at being a grape. If it’s attached to the vine, then it’s going to be a grape not an orange. Removing the grape from the vine gives us something completely different…a raisin.
If we’re slaves to the lost, let’s call them Gentiles, and we’re lovers of each other; then what is our relationship to Jesus?
Caveat: I know that these aren’t mutually exclusive terms and roles. We certainly are to love the lost and be servants to each other, etc., but the English language isn’t the easiest tool to work with.
Our relationship to Jesus, in this context, is that of a servant. Notice the terms Paul uses in describing a slave for lost souls: “spend,” “expend” and “loved the less.” But he does it gladly. What is Paul’s secret to being “content in any and every situation?” He knows when to be a slave; when to be a lover; when to be a servant.
We are servants of Jesus Christ. What’s the difference between a slave and a servant? Slaves “have to” and servants “get to.” (Please see “Servants versus Slaves.”)
These three roles are intrinsically intertwined. Simply being a slave to the Gentiles, without the encouraging love of other Christians and servant devotion to Jesus, leaves one disillusioned and defeated. Servanthood to Jesus that doesn’t lead to love for each other and service to Gentiles is just self-centered piousness (James 2:14-17). Love of each other without discipleship toward Jesus and the compulsion to share the Gospel is…well…um…it isn’t love. It’s just “circling the wagons” with an “us four, no more” attitude. At its worst it’s sectarianism that leads to cultism.
All of that to say; let’s love each other more, serve Jesus diligently and be slaves for the sake of the Gospel.