Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:9-10).
Paul wrote these very words to one of his friends and disciples in one of his letters, to Titus. In what we call chapter two of his prose, Paul is describing what the Christian household should look like. That older men should be: sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness (Titus 2:1-2). That older women should be: reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5). And that younger men need to be: self-controlled (Titus 2:6). Paul instructs the household to live a Christian lifestyle, so that their very lives reflect Christ, so that their witnessing may not be obstructed by hypocrisy. He then instructs the last member of the household to: be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
By no means is Paul defending slavery. Yet, he’s also not interested in starting a slave revolt either. For though how Christians are supposed to act goes against the very nature of slavery, to free the slaves during the time of the Roman Empire would have caused a bloodbath. It appears that instead of causing more death for a social cause, Paul is more concerned about the spread of the Gospel. That the apostle is working within the measures of his culture, even though they weren’t perfect nor moral, to spread the message of Jesus by any means available.
Paul is telling slaves, it’s better to be submissive, and to serve their masters in everything they do so that the Gospel will be spread, rather than to rise up and to be free. That the needs of the Kingdom are more important than earthly desires.
This verse hit me hard when I first read it. For as an American, the word “freedom” has rang in my head ever since I was very little. It is a gift that we should be proud of; a gift paid for from the blood of many brave men and women, yet it sometimes clouds our understanding. For as Americans, we love our freedom, we never want to submit, and are willing to fight to protect it. I’m not saying this is necessarily bad; however, there are things more important than freedom, such as the spread of the Gospel.
Therefore, I propose the question, what is more important to you–freedom or the Gospel?
I’m not saying that Christians need to just role over and forfeit our rights, for there is a time to fight and a time to submit (Ecclesiastes 3:8); however, if it came down to the choice one day, which would you choose? To defend your freedom at all costs? Or to sacrifice anything necessary, so that the Gospel may be heard?