Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you — although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.
1 Corinthians 7:21-24
Paul is dealing here with the common problem of slavery in that day, and yet what he says is interesting. Basically, what he says is, “To be a slave or to be free is not the overriding consideration of life: it is what you are inside that counts.” In the novel Roots, and in the television portrayal of that book, it was very evident that some of the slaves who were believers in Christ were much more noble, more loving, more compassionate, more understanding, demonstrated more integrity than their “free” masters. This whole passage calls us to the fact that that is the true freedom.
Paul is not denying the possibility that God may so arrange things that an opportunity for freedom is given. If so, “Take it,” he says. Basically, it is a gift of God. Christianity, though it is revolutionary, it is not designed to be radically so. It is not a violent overthrow of systems of the past, but it is designed to free from within. This is what the apostle is saying. So if you are in a situation that is difficult to handle, and hard to bear, remember that is only external; it is only temporary and passing, and you can be free in Christ in a most beautiful and effective and influential way.
The key words in verse 24 are “with God.” Regardless of what your situation may be, even if you cannot change it, even if it is a so-called “difficult” marriage, remember that God is able to meet you right where you are and to fill your life with love and joy and peace despite the struggles. The struggles themselves will help you do it if you understand them as God’s choice for you. So, Paul says, “… do not become slaves of human beings.” How do you become slaves of human beings? Well, you do when you conform to the world around, when you let the opinions of the world shape your judgments as to what you ought to be in marriage, or whether you ought to get a divorce or not. You are becoming a slave to men, instead of to the Lord, when you do that. When you follow after teachers in the church and think of one as being better and preferable to the other, you are becoming a slave of men. When you give way to the secular pressures to sexual infidelity you are becoming a slave of men. Do not become slaves of men, Paul says, but remain where you are, “with God.”
Thank you, Father, for the grace that comes to help me live under the difficult situations in which I find myself.
Although we are probably not enslaved legally, what are some habits and/or emotional commitments to which we may be held hostage? What are some specific ways in which God’s rightful ownership sets us free?