Humans: Servants or Children of God?

“God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:9.

I’m going to address something that many of you might find a little odd at first. I want to talk about the importance of communion with God.

To start off, many of you have probably heard the sermon or youth group message on “living a life of worship.” The idea is that we shouldn’t just be Christians on Sunday or Wednesday night bible study, but throughout all of our lives including each activity of our day. We are, as Romans 12 exhorts, to “offer ourselves as living sacrifices.” Normally, this call to a life of worship is given by those in your group who are the “more spiritual, ” in that they are constantly carrying with them the idea of serving God in each and every one of their daily activities, always thinking about how they can do God’s will. They are driven by the familiar idea recounted by Jesus about the day of judgement in which God will tell the righteous, “well done my good and faithful servant.”

Often times, this idea of servanthood is extraordinarily overblown. Many people use it to such a degree that their primary orientation to God is one of servant. I can’t help but to think of the various ancient conceptions of the gods’ creation of human beings to serve them and make food for them while they lounge around Mt. Olympus or some similar place. In this vein, theological anthropology is centered around human service to the gods; we are supposed to constantly be doing their will here on earth, always working, to fulfill our created purpose.

Now, before you grab the pitchforks and torches approaching me like an agry mob toward Frankenstein, I want to say that the idea of serving God is very important. We are co-laborers with Christ and have been given the ministry of reconciliation for the whole world. There is no doubt that servanthood is an important theme in our relationship to God as Christians.

However, I do think that the idea can be harmful if taken to its extreme where every single moment of your life is supposed to be one of service towards God and others. This is just not healthy. As the opening verse to this post proclaims as the heart of the gospel, we are called into communion with God. This means that much of our orientation towards God should be one of fellowship as part of our new identity in Christ. Jesus calls us “friends.” Our relationship with God should have this idea of friendship and communion at its heart.

Christ blessing the children

Christ Blesses the Children

Even more so than just abstract communion or friendship, however, the gospel makes it abundantly clear that we are formed as adopted children of God. Each of us is a daughter or son of God. We can now call out “abba” to God rather than merely conceiving of ourselves as servants to a master up above. This has profound implications for how we understand what it means to be human. It is not that work or service doesn’t play a central role, but that our lives are oriented towards God as a child to a parent or towards a friend in fellowship with another.

To that end, I wouldn’t discourage you from using servant language, nor from thinking of yourself as serving God. However, I would encourage you to think of what it means for you to be called God’s child or Christ’s friend. The different conceptions carry with them profoundly different implications. It may just be that we are allowed to stop our constant work and service towards God’s will and merely stay a little while in God’s presence. Maybe our Church services really should be different from the rest of our lives in that we set aside a special time just to enjoy God. We don’t always have to serve. Sometimes we can rest in God, and that makes us all the better as we continue to explore what it means to be adopted into God’s family, sharing fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

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