Like you, when Cindy and I got married, I had to learn to be a husband and Cindy had to learn to be a wife. When we had children, I had to learn to be a father and Cindy a mother. We weren’t coming at either with a blank slate; we had parents who set an example for us to follow, some of it good and some, not so good. But the bottom line is that seeing isn’t the same thing as doing and it was up to us to figure it out. Learning to be a husband, wife or parent includes a list of imperatives that seems endless. There are the day to day, practical matters that involve food, shelter and clothing but if that isn’t hard enough there are the relationship issues. There are the issues of discipline, self-discipline, intimacy and just figuring out who does what, when and how. It’s no wonder that we often struggle just to get through the day in relative peace and harmony. I do have some good news; it does get easier eventually, with age and experience. You eventually learn to separate what’s really important from what just appears to be at the time and to react proportionately.
Imagine for a moment the unique challenges that Jesus faced during His lifetime. Unlike us, Jesus was born without a sin nature; after all He was God, sent by His Father to assume the “likeness” of a human being. He was fully man and fully God; yet was born free of sin or the ability to sin. Jesus faced a unique challenge that no human being had ever faced or would ever experience. Jesus had to learn to be a human being and all that entails! It’s something that is really beyond our imagination or the ability to fully understand (Philippians 2:6-8). But it was necessary so that when He went to the cross, His death would be the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for our sin. Imagine for a moment if you knew in advance that all the hard work you’ve put into your marriage and family was all for the purpose bringing you, personally, nothing but pain, agony and a humiliating death.
In Romans, chapter six, Paul uses the example or image of becoming a “slave” to help us understand, if not fully, at least in part what was required of Christ and ultimately of us. This idea of becoming a slave is also useful for the purpose of keeping us lost in the presence of God along with losing our way back to the sin that so “easily entangles.” In verses eighteen through twenty, Paul explains that we can either be a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. The emphasis is on control, not if we are going to be controlled, but by what, by whom, and toward what end. A slave by definition is someone who is being forced to serve, an unwilling servant. A free man serves, but by his own choice. But Paul tells us that we “have set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness (v.18).” In fact we are to completely obedient to our Master, Christ, and at all times slaves to righteousness. Sure there will be times when we rebel and even fail in our duties to God and man, but our master slave relationship with God remains. Some may find this illustration offensive because of the use of the word slave and all it implies in our world. But in God’s economy it is to be counted as privilege not a burden to serve the Master.
Just as Christ had to learn to be human, we must learn to be like Christ. We need to adopt the attitude of a slave as it relates to serving others and keep ourselves spiritually healthy in order to continue Christ’s good work. We do so by learning to live in the Spirit of God, which simply means we yield to his leading, at all times and in all things. One way to keep ourselves on focus is to control what we see and what we hear. We are under constant assault by a sinful world through television, the internet, novels and even subscription radio. Even in the work place ethics and morality have been replaced by expedience and an expectation of our being willing to do anything to advance either ourselves or the company agenda. Many of the struggles we face have been around since the first couple took a bite out of the forbidden apple and Paul was no idealist. He said of himself, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do (7:14-15).” We are all struggling to be like Christ and we will continue to struggle for the rest of our lives. But take heart, you have a lot of company and you can call on the Holy Spirit any time, day or night, for help.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5