In 2012 singer/songwriter Matthew West released an album called Into the Light. One of the tracks on that album is called Hello, My Name Is. There’s a story behind that song. West received a letter from a young man who began by writing, “Hello, My Name is Jordan. I’m a drug addict.”
I’m wondering how you say hello this morning. Maybe it’s “hello, my name is Mistake.” Or, “hello, my name is Angry,” or “hello, my name is Defeat, Regret or Broken”. “Hello, my name is Lonely or Afraid.” How do you say hello? Would you like to change the way you say hello?
The Bible has something to say about how we say hello.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In most of his letters, Paul usually says “hello, my name is Paul the apostle.” But here, Paul says: “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.”
These verses aren’t throw away verses. They tell us something important about ourselves…about who we are: We belong to God. Look at the language Paul uses. The word in the greek can be translated “slaves,” but our translations often say “servants.” “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.” The congregation in Philippi was mostly comprised of Gentiles, non-Jews. They understood the word ‘slave.’ Slavery was all around them. It was part of the culture. Slavery in Paul’s world didn’t look like the racial slavery that occurred in the U.S. Even so, slaves were not free people. They belonged to another.
Paul says that he and Timothy are slaves of Christ Jesus. They belong to another. Notice how Paul includes himself with Timothy here. They are both equally slaves of Christ Jesus. In other salutations, Paul separates himself from Timothy. He often begins with “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus and Timothy our brother.” In these cases, Paul needs to distinguish himself as an apostle.
But here, Paul doesn’t have to defend his apostleship to his readers. He reminds his listeners that he, just like Timothy, is a slave of Christ Jesus. They both belong to another.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the word ‘slavery’ is a great word for marketing Christianity. Who wants to be enslaved to something? “Come one. Come all! Be a Christian. Be a slave to Jesus!” That doesn’t sound all that appealing.
But the truth is that we’re often slaves of something. Everyone in my family and extended family would agree that Timothy, our youngest, was a challenging baby (and toddler). His scream was loud and persistent. If Tim wanted the book in Jack’s hand, Jack gave it to him. If Tim wanted the truck in Sam’s hand, Sam gave it to him. If Tim wanted the spoon I was cooking with, he got it….all to keep him quiet.
One day I had a friend over and she said to me: “Pat, Tim owns you.” And it was true, I belonged to a one year old. Maybe you know what it’s like to be owned by your toddler or your teen or even a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a spouse. I think it’s true that many of us are slaves to something.
Maybe you’re not a slave to another person, but to an addiction. You belong to alcohol or prescription medication. You’re a slave to the internet or to a grumpy attitude. Is anyone a slave to their work, their home—inside—the kitchen or outside—the lawn or the garden?
If I’m going to be a slave to something, I want to be a slave to Jesus Christ. I want to belong to Him. And you do belong to Jesus when you trust that His sacrifice—His death and resurrection was enough to make you right with God. We were purchased by God through the blood of Jesus Christ: “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation, purchase of God…” We belong to him.
I trust Him with my life. And when you’re a slave to Jesus Christ, it’s the only kind of slavery in which there is freedom.
And here we see Paul and Timothy freely serving the Philippian church. The other idea behind the word “slave” is “servant.” The phrase “servant of Christ” was even used as a title. But it implied that yes, Paul and Timothy belonged to Jesus, but they also served God’s people. In this case, the Philippians.
And that’s at the core of who we are as Christians. We belong to Jesus Christ and we freely serve others in his behalf.
Imagine how your day would change if you really believed that. If you woke up in the morning and looked in the mirror and said, “I belong to Jesus…not to this house, that addiction, my job, my emotions. I belong to Jesus.” And when you know to whom you belong, your service will be in his behalf. You’ll be doing the things that please Him. But when you belong to something or someone else, then you serve that desire or that person.
Today, know exactly who you are. You belong to Jesus and there’s freedom in serving others.