Obeying the Lord at All Times
17In every church I tell the people to stay as they were when the Lord Jesus chose them and God called them to be his own. Now I say the same thing to you. 18 If you are already circumcised, don't try to change it. If you are not circumcised, don't get circumcised. 19Being circumcised or uncircumcised isn't really what matters. The important thing is to obey God's commands. 20So don't try to change what you were when God chose you. 21Are you a slave? Don't let that bother you. But if you can win your freedom, you should. 22When the Lord chooses slaves, they become his free people. And when he chooses free people, they become slaves of Christ. 23God paid a great price for you. So don't become slaves of anyone else. 24Stay what you were when God chose you.
The idea that brackets this passage – that one should remain in the situation or place in life to which God has called him or her – has been used often and shamefully to justify actual slavery in former times, and effective racial, economic or social slavery to this very day. Powerful people in almost every “Christian” culture in history have used this rubric to keep people in subjugation. But it’s a totally upside-down, 180 degree interpretation of what Paul actually intends.
To what state has God actually called us? All of us? We are free – free from the power of sin in all its forms and demands, free from the expectations of our culture, free from fear, free from subservience to human injustice. And we are slaves – bound to a God who redeems us from our former slavery, makes us his children, calls us no longer his servants but his friends, whose law of love supersedes any and every human law, who makes slave and freeman, Jew and Gentile, male and female all one in Christ. What binds us to him is not law, fear or obligation, but love.
“Don’t conform to the labels or requirements of religion and social structures,” is what Paul really says. Whatever restrictions we currently labour under do not define who we are in the eyes of God. We must find the “place” that God – not humanity – has assigned us and live that. Free people, bound only by love.
Lord, grant that I may not shape my life to look like other Christians, or according to the dictates of this present world. Help me to live the life for which you have purchased me with your own blood. I ask in your own name, Lord Jesus. Amen.