Slavery in our world
Some weeks ago, I have been in Zanzibar. It is an island located to the Indian ocean and
belongs to Tanzania. Nowadays Zanzibar is known for endless beaches with white shimmering sand and clear blue water. Surely, it reminds people on the paradise. That’s why every year thousands of tourists travel to this awesome island to spend their holidays there.
But only few know Zanzibar’s terrible past.
In the 17th century Arabic dealers settled in Zanzibar and started their businesses. Mainly with Africans. But not trading with them but trading in them. They caught Africans in East Africa, brought them somehow to Zanzibar and sold them. For 200 years Arabic sold slaves to the rest of the world. And as usually, we can expect that being a slave was humiliating. Those humans were treated as animals, living under exploitative and inhumane conditions. Most of them died on long hikes and malnutrition. Another black chapter of history that was written in Africa.
Children of God or slaves? – Are we not free?
And we know those stories. Nowadays, there are still millions of people in the world, living in
modern slavery. We are associating slavery with death, tortures, malnutrition, inhumanity,
and captivity. It is the opposite of freedom.
Even more, we somehow don’t understand when the bible is talking about being a slave of
God. Being a slave is considered as being in captivity, while being a Child of God means freedom. We are thinking that we are beloved children of God. He loves us, is our father, how can he say that we are his slaves? Are we not called for freedom? And yes, indeed we are.
But well, admitting, it seems somehow very contradictory whether we are now slaves of God or children of God. It’s like ice and fire. It doesn’t seem to match.
However, we cannot separate those two positions. We must admit that both are found in the
Bible. We are slaves and children. We are free and at the same time, we are not. How that
can be, I will explain in the following two post.
Biblical meaning of slaves and its origin
I'll start with slaves.
The Greek word that is used for this in the Bible is doulos (δοῦλον). Doulos simply means
someone who voluntarily or involuntarily submits to someone else, who willingly obeys that
person and is bound to that person. The word is translated as slave or servant.
The opposite of doulos is kyrious (κύριος), mostly translated as lord or master and means
somebody who exercises absolute property rights over another person and makes decisions
for that person.
Doulos and kyrious always belong together and are inseparable and Jesus used these words
to describe the relationship with his disciples.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.“ - Matthew 10:24
Here is written for servant doulos and for master kyrious.
It is also interesting that when the disciples called Jesus Lord, they addressed him as kyrious.
In doing so, they made themselves directly slaves or servants, completely subordinating
themselves to Jesus' will.
Being a slave in our world? – meaning in our time
For our Christianity today it is no longer clear and obvious and, above all, not a matter of
course that we are not only children of God, but above all that Jesus wants us to submit to
him. Surrendering all property rights to him and submitting to his will.
That is exactly what the disciples did and that is exactly what Jesus demands of us. In
Matthew 10:24 he shows what kind of relationship he wants to have. This status between
doulos and kyrious is part of our succession. We can't bypass it.
In our lives this means always putting Jesus' will above ours. Be it financially, with the choice
of a partner, with what you consume. Ultimately, we must understand that we no longer
belong to ourselves. The Bible also speaks of a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
Jesus wants nothing less than that we lay down our whole life to him as a sacrifice to him.
The main message from Jesus was not that God loves us, the main message from Jesus was:
Repent, for the kingdom of God is nearby. He wanted us to leave old ways and go new ways,
go on his ways.
Every kingdom has a king. The king is Jesus himself.
How can we live in this kingdom, wanting its privileges, taking God's promises on us, if we are unwilling to accept the King and even to submit to him? People's problem is always to have everything under control. Because of this, there were suddenly three gods in Eden. Everyone tried to get their way. But that's not how God's Kingdom works.
Following Jesus means denying himself and submitting fully.
Jesus says in Luke 9:23: „Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Denying ourselves, It is no longer about us. Jesus demands nothing less than that we
completely submit to him. The Bible says we are dead to this world. We died to this world and were resurrected in Christ. We only live for Christ.
In practical terms, this means: submitting your marriage, your family, your job, your finances,
your calling, your goods, your consumption, your entertainment, your time! completely to
Jesus. Remember, when we say Lord, we automatically submit to Jesus because this is what
the bible is telling us.
We live in the last time. And now people are needed who are serious about Jesus and who
really follow him and sign a waiver for Jesus. I read it once in a book and found it extremely
fitting. If Jesus says there, then we go there, if Jesus says then we do it at that specified time
and if Jesus says exactly like that, then we do it that way.
It is not about torture, not about someone who holds us in captivity but about submitting fully to God as slaves had to do to their Lords in the time of Jesus.
You are whom you serve
But if we look in the bible that makes a lot of sense.
The bible is comparing/confronting two kinds of slaves. Slaves of obedience and slaves of sin.
Don’t you know that when you give yourselves to obey someone you become that person’s slave? If you are slaves of sin, then you will die. But if you are slaves who obey God, then you will live a godly life. - Romans 6:16
According to the bible it is very simple. Either sin will dominate us, then we automatically are slaves of sin or we are obedient, then the sin won’t have power to rule us.
Jesus replied, “What I’m about to tell you is true. Everyone who sins is a slave of sin. - John 8:34
They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for
“people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” - 2 Peter 2:19
Everyone is a slave
Obviously, for the bible slavery is a kind of status every human has. Because every human is
submitting to someone or something. Naturally, we have to worship something. There is no one who does not worship anything. And seriously, we are not independent beings. Babies and children are dependent from their parents, even when they are older and already adults.
Humans depend on food, on water. We need oxygen, certain minerals, vitamins, just to
survive. Most of the people will say that they also need physically contact to other people,
that is why these lockdowns have been so hard for people. And surely, all of us we need a
God. Everyone has a god. Everyone is worshipping something. Let it be a free lifestyle, food,
parties, certain hobbies, money, health, family, friends, our career and successes. Things that human created for their need of worshipping something.
Everyone is submitting to something or someone. Even if don’t recognize.
Finally, we need to understand that we become what we follow and worship.
But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. - Psalms 115:4-8