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Slave to Work or Slave to Christ?

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The apostle Paul understood what it meant to be on "the corporate fast track." Read his letter to the churches in Galatia. Before his encounter with the risen Christ, he was advancing in Judaism beyond many of his contemporaries:

"Am I now trying to persuade people or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.

"For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel proclaimed by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it nor was I taught it by a human being, but I received it and was taught it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

"For you have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was persecuting the church of God in the extreme and destroying it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my people of the same age, being far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his power, was well-pleased to reveal his Son in me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but immediately I went away into Arabia, and afterwards returned to Damascus." *


Paul was achieving superstar status, pleasing his superiors by zealously enforcing the traditions of his ancestors. In modern business terminology, Paul was quickly moving up the "corporate ladder" in Judaism because he was aggressively pursuing the agenda set out by those "above" him in the corporate hierarchy. Their satisfaction with his hard-hitting performance meant that he was catapulting over his own peers.

Notice, however, that Paul is also quick to highlight the destruction associated with pursuing his own rapid advancement: "I was persecuting the church in the extreme and destroying it." Rising stars in today's corporate world also sometimes leave destruction in their wake: broken promises, broken families, broken friendships, broken lives.

My friend Ron works in a large multi-national corporation. He, too, was a rising star, receiving one promotion after another. Each promotion brought more money and more authority over others. Ron's rapid ascent was at once both breathtaking and seductive.

After his marriage and the birth of his first child, Ron contacted me to talk about the serious conflicts that were arising at home. Because he was working long hours, he had no energy for his new family when he finally got home at night.

Fortunately, Ron is also a person of faith and takes his faith commitments seriously. As we talked, he had a revelation. He realized that he was not serving Christ by relegating the needs of his family to a lower priority than his work. Like the apostle Paul, we might say that Ron had a revelation of Jesus Christ in himself: the Christ who lives in Ron does not ignore important relationships. Instead, he develops them by investing the time, attention, and patience that characterizes all of Jesus' friendships with his followers.

Being a "slave of Christ" means living each and every day with integrity—being faithful to all the relationships to which we have committed, whether at home, at church, or at work.

* author's translation of Galatians 1:10-17
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