Friday, March 21, 2008

God's Slave

Last Sunday, I asked one of our pastors, Doug, how he was doing.

He answered honestly.

I really value that. It's so easy to get into the "fine, how are you" mentality, especially in church ministry.

Doug said he is growing, and it's not fun, but it's good. He said he started reading a book recently about Christian contentment, written by some famous theologian from the 17th century. He then pulled the book out of the outside pocket of his Bible cover and showed it to me.

He said he was pretty much slammed just in the first two paragraphs of the book, because the author begins by saying, basically, "You are God's slave. Stop whining."

Ouch!

This concept echos Luke 17:10. "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"

Doug went on to say that this is an especially hard concept for Americans, because WE have 'inalienable' rights. Americans are ENTITLED. But for Christians, the question is not "What are my rights?" The question is: "Is God enough?" Is it really possible to give up the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and become a slave of God?

On Monday, God knocked me flat on my face with a negative illustration of what Doug shared. I did something very impulsive. I emailed my local radio station's morning show and told the wife of the husband/wife team that I thought she should treat her husband more respectfully on the air.

She replied. She claimed the rest of their listeners love the way she gets on her husband's case. She said they receive nothing but praise, from pastors even, and they are asked to speak at marriage conferences. She said everyone loves the morning show because they find it relatable.

I wrote back and said 'relatable' does not mean 'right'.

She wrote again and said that all of their listeners couldn't be wrong. She said I was judging her.

I was floored. Why? Not because she disagreed with me. Because of how I came across to her. She did not see Christ in my emails. She read my messages and thought, "Wow. She's full of herself."

She was right.

And I was embarrassed.

Who does that?! Who writes to the radio station and tells them to change their morning show?!

My motivation was entirely wrong. I did not write to her out of any genuine concern for her marriage, or for the marriages of the listeners who look to her for a model of how to treat husbands. I wrote to her simply because I thought *I* had learned a great lesson about how to treat husbands, and I was ready to preach about it.

While I believe my premise was correct - she should treat her husband with a great deal more respect than she does - my email to her was all about me.

Also, I've only been with Jeff for seven and a half years, and we have a whole lifetime of marriage ahead of us, and we're still just getting our feet wet. Who am I to talk to a 2-decade marriage veteran about her marriage, unsolicited?

Nobody. That's who.

Ah. But I am God's slave, right? As God's slave, if He gives me something to say, I am bound to obey, regardless of the length of my marriage vs. the length of any other marriage.

But I'm obviously not there yet. I've got the idea, the concept, mentally, of being God's slave, but in my heart, there's still a whole lot of ME getting in the way. And of course there will be bits of me getting in the way until I die.

The thing is that whatever I might have to say will always descend like a storm of doom on the ears of my listeners if I say it for me. It will taste bitter and cause dissension. It will leave scars and break bonds.

Only when I am God's slave will my words be pleasant and bring healing. Only when I am completely sold out for Christ will people look at me and say not, "She is full of herself," but "She is full of Him."

Only when I speak out in obedience to Christ will the words coming out of my mouth have positive impact.

Ending my email exchange with a failed attempt at peace, and heartbroken over the sledgehammer of blinding self-importance I'd just displayed, I betook myself to my timeout chair and ran to Abba. I told Him how ashamed I felt, and He understood (having nailed my shame to the cross).

He said, "When words are many, sin is never absent. But she who holds her tongue is wise." Prov 10:19

I said, "But Abba. You made me a writer. How in the world can I have few words if I'm a writer?"

He said, "The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment." Prov 10:20-21

In other words, Abba said to me, "By all means write. But write for Me. By all means, speak out. But speak out for Me. By all means blog about respecting your husband. But do it for Me."

...as God's slave.

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Romans 6:22