I guess last week didn’t bore you too much, and you decided to come back for another dose of Words with Friends – Worship Blog Style. Last week we looked at the word diakonein, which means to worship/serve God by serving others. That’s a pretty cool concept. I mean, if I didn’t know any better, I would say that God has figured this thing out. It’s almost like a spiritual Jerry Maguire moment “Help me help you,” but backwards and with a Pay it Forward twist….. I digress
This week we’re going to tackle another concept and another word. And I hope that you will start to see an undertone forming. (Can you really call it an undertone if you only have two examples, and it happens in both?)
Our word this week is douleuein. It is pronounced doo-lay-oo-ine, and means to serve as a slave. Now, before anyone gets all bent out of shape about slavery, let me remind you of one thing about the First Century, when the New Testament was written: MORE THAN HALF THE POPULATION OF THE ROMAN EMIRE WERE SLAVES! Doctors were slaves to wealthy families. Scribes were slaves to wealthy families and governmental rulers. Slaves often had better lives than free men that were peasants. We are not talking Uncle Tom’s Cabin slavery here. There was nothing wrong with being a slave in those days. Even gladiators were often slaves. And I’m pretty sure they could have whooped up on their owners. So why didn’t they?
Because slavery was not a “bad” thing at that time. It meant that you were a contracted, paid, live-in servant. So how does the Bible use this concept?
There are numerous passages in the New Testament that use this word to define service/worship to/of God. But let’s focus on one specific passage: 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10, specifically, verse 9.
“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve (douleuein) the living and true God.”
Here’s the setup: Paul is writing a letter to the church in Thessalonica. He writes this amazing greeting that is basically a big brag session about how great these guys are. He talks about how they turned to Christ in spite of significant persecution. And I would say that if a guy who has been shipwrecked, beaten numerous times, fed to wild animals and imprisoned calls your persecution significant, it was probably legit.
So at the closing of Paul’s greeting he makes the statement that the Thessalonians’ faith is so bold that when Paul travels around to other places, people tell Paul about how awesome these guys are. Imagine if your church was talked about in your community like that? Ok, enough with the pseudo Jesus-Juke.
The end of Paul’s statement says that the Thessalonians turned from serving their idols to serve (douleuein) God. He is saying that these guys’ faith and commitment was so
intense it reminds him of how a slave serves their master. That’s hard core faith and service. Makes me feel kinda like a spiritual weenie……
So what are some ways to describe what slavery-based servitude looks like?
Selfless Devotion // There is no thought of personal preference. The master says jump, the slave says, “how high?” Or back in the 90’s the slave said, “lemme air up my pumps first…”
Timeless Devotion // If the master wants the slave to get up and get him a glass of water from the aqueduct at 2:00am, guess what the slave is doing at 2:00am?
Limitless Devotion // There is no concern on the part of the slave for the demands of the task put forth by the master. He trusts the master’s judgement of “doable.” These Thessalonians endured much persecution because of their faith in Christ. They didn’t complain. They just did.
So how are you doing with these three areas of your personal devotion to Christ? Are you a slave to Christ?