Who do you serve?

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed,” from the Gospel of St. Luke.

Three of our readings today speak of servanthood. In the first reading from the First book of the Kings, Solomon stood before the altar of the temple and praised God for his steadfast love toward his servants who walk before him with all their heart.

St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

In the Gospel, we heard the story of the centurion, a Roman Soldier, who was concerned about his servant, and went to Jesus to ask him for healing. You may have noticed that the word slave and servant are used interchangeably. Different translations of the bible use different words for the same Greek word, δοῦλος (Doulos). The word means bond-servant, that is one is is bound to another for service. The word is used in regard to the Apostles as servants of Christ in the book of the Acts. Moses was a servant to the God of the Exodus. In every case, these people are willing servants, not serving against their will. It is too easy to dismiss the teaching of the Gospel when the word slave is used because of its association with more modern day slavery, that which was forced upon a people who were stolen from their homeland.

There are some misguided theologians who dismiss the writings of St. Paul because he seemed to support slavery. This gives them license to ignore all proscriptions against ungodly and immoral behavior. If he was wrong about that, he must be wrong about perverted behavior, too.

St. Paul knew what many people do not realize. In the words of that famous poet, Bob Dylan, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

In Romans, chapter 6, St. Paul issues a general statement that every person is a slave. He puts it like this: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” The words, “Do you not know” is a rhetorical question that assumes that the readers know that everyone is a slave to someone, or something.

He goes on to remind them that they have been freed from sin. Listen to verses 17 and 18: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

It seems our Galatian friends have forgotten what St. Paul has taught them. He chides them for quickly deserting our Lord Jesus, and chasing after a false and perverted gospel. They had been given the best news of all. They had been set free from sin and death, and yet they abandoned that which had been won for them. Why would they do so? Why would they exchange sin for righteousness? Maybe it’s because they forgot why they were enslaved to sin in the first place.

Sin is sneaky. It disguises itself as something to be desired. It is addicting because it replaces what is natural. Certain substances when abused cause the brain to stop producing the natural chemicals associated with positive emotions, so that when the substance is removed, the brain is starved and the craving overwhelms. So it is with sin. The more the sinful behavior is indulged, the more the craving when it stops.

Some are so blinded by their addiction to sin they justify it as approved by men and God. They do so at their peril. Some think that if they choose to live for themselves they can experience true freedom. They think that traditional morals and polite behavior are old fashioned and constricting. A contemporary song writer wrote this line that seems to be a creed for the youth of today, “if it makes you happy, then it can’t be that bad.” Another slogan they use is, “It’s all about love,” which is another deception used to gain sympathy. Do they not know that these things lead to death?

The only way to life and peace is to be the servant to our Lord Jesus Christ. And we need not worry what that looks like. If we ask him to be our Lord, and to let us be his servants, the way will be shown to us. The opportunities to serve will be laid before us. Let’s pray that we can indeed go forth to love and serve the Lord.

Amen.

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