Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible.
1 Corinthians 9:19
It is the First Century A.D., and you are a slave. How you became a slave may have been in any number of ways. Perhaps you’re a prisoner of war, or a sailor captured and sold by pirates, or your desperate family sold you into slavery when you were a child.
As a slave, you might find yourself working anywhere. You might work in a household, in a mine, in a factory, or on a farm. What dominates your life, however, is the reality that you are the property of your owner. Your owner can rent you out or sell you at any time. Your owner also has the right to put you to death at any moment, for any reason. You are a slave. Your life is not your own.
This picture of a slave is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to his fellow Christians in Corinth. Although he was a free man, Paul was willing to make himself a slave in the way he lived for those around him.
What drove him to do this? Did he suffer from low self-esteem? Was he trying to make up for past failures? Was he subservient by nature? Any fair reading of Paul will soon tell you that those were not the reasons. Instead, Paul said this: “I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible.”
For Paul, it came down to Jesus. The Son of God came to this earth, made himself a servant on our behalf, and lived a holy life in our place. He allowed himself to endure torment and death as our Substitute. All this he did to serve us and to wash our sinful stains away.
In Paul’s mind, if he could bring the Good News to more people by living for them and not for himself, he would do it. He was simply following his Savior’s lead. Forgiven in Jesus, you and I have reason to do the same.
Lord Jesus, you gave up your life to wash me clean. Give me that same spirit as I live for others. Amen.