It is common to hear, when an athlete tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, that there was no way it could have been an accident. When competing at such an elite level, these athletes are meticulous in what they ingest into their bodies. My favorite example is when Manny Ramirez tested positive... for a fertility drug used by women! (It masks synthetic testosterone, in case you were wondering) To say he could have taken such a drug by accident is absurd. These athletes depend not only on their skill, but most importantly on their health. If they are out of shape or sickly, their performance suffers and ultimately so does their paycheck.
Ever wonder how movie stars stay so fit and trim? They make enough money to hire personal chefs and personal trainers to ensure their fitness. And their lifestyles afford them the luxury to take as much time as they need to get in shape for that next big role. Like the athlete, their livelihoods depend on their health and appearance.
Simply put, at the superstar level, these people make their bodies their slave.
Paul wrote about this in his first letter to the Corinthians, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Or without the religious jargon, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. So I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that I will not be disqualified for the prize."
Every detail controlled. Every minute of training accounted for. Every calorie counted. The elite makes his and or her body their slave.
Slave isn't a word we use a lot these days. There's just too much baggage that loads the term. Even New Testament scriptures about slaves obeying their masters get a 20th Century gloss-over to apply to employee-boss relationships. Never mind the fine print that follows, "as if you are serving God, not men." But lets call it what it is. Slavery. Bondage. No rights. No freedom. Slavery.
We are all slaves to something. We might be slaves to our jobs. We might be slaving over housework. We have all been, and may continue to be, slaves to sin. We are slaves to the grind.
But are you a slave to Christ? In the tenth chapter of Kyle Idleman's book Not a Fan, Kyle talks about slavery. Not the whips and chains version. Or the kidnapped and shipped overseas to be sold at auction version. But the slavery where we give up all our rights, all our privileges, and make Jesus Christ our master. He makes the contrast that fans of Jesus never become his slave. They cry out to defend their freedoms: my pastor said this, but I think... our church voted to have... I know the Bible says, but... What we think what we want is more important than what Jesus commands. Oh yeah, and majority rules. The twelve Apostles could have out-voted Jesus anytime, but they functioned like a consensus group.
NO! Jesus' Apostles may not have known what they were getting themselves into, but they knew they were giving up everything. Oh yeah, that's a popular Bible verse: "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33) Anyone. Everything. Or you cannot. There is no grey area of compromise here. There is no voting. There is no sensitivity to your rights as an individual. No, Jesus is you master and you are his slave.
If you were to give up drinking on the weekends because you were training for a marathon, you would probably be encouraged by your friends. But if you gave up drinking because you are a slave to Jesus, you should expect to be mocked. If you go on a diet at the beginning of the year because losing weight was a New Year's resolution, most would relate and say they're doing the same thing. But fast from something for 40 days to draw closer to God (when it's not prescribed on a church calendar to do so) and few would understand. A friend invites you to an R-rated movie and you turn it down because you can't afford it, your friend would understand. But try and explain to someone that you don't have cable at home because of the filth that permeates every station. Cutting back on expenses because times are tough? Sure, why not? Cutting back on expenses because you give at least 10% of what you earn back to God, and you're part of a legalistic church.
Which of those examples did you relate most to? As you go about your walk with Jesus are you really submitting to him as a slave? Or are you twisting his teaching to suit your wants and needs and making Jesus your slave?
This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.