We are free people and we have certain inalienable rights, among which is the right to pursue happiness. Our government is by the people and for the people. My state seal has a man with his foot on the neck of a tyrant. I am a self-made man among self-made people. I am a new world, 21st century man and I have a manifest destiny. Something like slavery just isn’t in my vocabulary. It’s more like “Give me liberty or give me death.” (Thanks, Patrick!)

St. Paul seemed to be in love with the idea of doulos. A doulos was a servant or bond slave. St. Paul said that the Christian life was one of liberty, but not as we think of it. It is the freedom of a slave who does not live to please himself, but to please his master. And so, in Romans 14, he says, “Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Our whole life is supposed to be about one thing – pleasing the Lord. Our life is not about finding ourselves, or discovering some hidden purpose to our being, or even to pursue our idea of happiness. Fundamentally, we aren’t here to please the boss, or the wife, or even our priest. We are “oi douloi” – slaves of God- bought with a price beyond value and we are to please God and not be men-pleasers.

You can see how this doesn’t sit well with a free man. Yet, I wonder if there is any wisdom or any power in it? Let’s take St. Paul’s example in Romans 14. He is speaking about a variety of customs in the Church and he says that some observe them and some don’t. Apparently, the result was that everyone was judging everyone else based upon whether they followed the customs or not, or in the “proper” way or not. St. Paul makes this note, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.” You see the slave imagery here? But imagine what this would do to all of the judging that goes on in the Church if we believed that we were in fact, slaves of Christ. We would not dare judge another man’s servant, whether they be male or female, young or old, lay or clergy.

Let me digress for a minute and say that in the years ahead, it will be difficult to refrain from judging your priest. Being human, they will fail you from time to time. Please remember, that a priest sees what you cannot, not because he is smarter, but because his position gives him a unique vantage point. Also remember, that often, when accused, a priest cannot defend himself because to do so would be to betray the trust of the confessional. He simply cannot give you all the facts, even though to do so would exonerate him. Don’t judge your priest, for he is a doulos and he has chains around his mouth.

It get’s even more personal. If I am a slave of Christ, then it is Christ who tells me who I am and what I am. I am not even allowed to judge myself. By that, I don’t mean that I am unaware of my sinfulness, but I mean that it is not up to me, the doulos, to define my self. Here lies the power of the idea of slavery. Since only the Master can define me, the devil cannot do it no matter how hard he tries. That nagging internal and accusing voice of self-hatred and self-condemnation cannot define me. My past does not define me. The victories and the tragedies of my life do not define me. My wife, my children, and my boss do not define me. The amount of money that I have or don’t have does not define me. Even my sins do not define me. No one but Jesus defines me, and being able to look upon the heart, his judgment of me is true. The wonderful thing is that He never judges without offering a remedy and he never condemns me. The other voices judge and condemn, but they do nothing to help me.

So, there is power in being a doulos. No wonder Jesus pleaded with us to take His yoke upon us. When I think of the yoke that I have carried, a yoke heavy with the expectations and condemnations of all those who seek my life, the yoke of Jesus is light indeed. It is a sad thing that all of my ideas about my freedom and liberty have been illusions that have bound me with the chains of slavery. How sad that I have avoided the yoke of Christ because I thought it was a yoke of slavery when in fact it was true freedom.

Master, make me a doulos so that I will be judged by no one but You, and I will judge no man’s servant, not even myself.Ah, blessed freedom!

One Response to “Doulos”

  1. nichole3 Says:

    This is a very helpful writing. I really appreciate it.

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