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A Better Freedom: Finding Life as Slaves of Christ

The third and longest part of the book is an exploration of the theme of slavery in the identity, life and teaching of Christ. Card points out the centrality of Christ as suffering servant and of the Philippian hymn (Phil. 2:6-11) to the early church. Christ as servant is, of course, in continuity with the descriptions of each of the heralds of the new Kingdom seen in the gospels, namely Mary, Simeon and John the Baptist, each of whom is described in vocabulary pregnant with the idea of slavery and belonging to a ‘Master’. A shocking and particularly revealing statistic is that almost half of the parables of Jesus involve slaves or slave-like characters, and Jesus invites the listener to identify with such characters and their respective roles. Card challenges the reader to consider what the church might look like if Christians ceased to ask ‘Do I feel like doing it?’ but rather ‘What does the Master command?’ Of course, no servant is greater than his Master and Card movingly drives home the truth that Jesus, who washed his disciples’ feet and then taught that whoever wants to be the greatest should also do this task of a slave, is the Master who died to pay the ransom or slave price for us. Jesus was a Master whose life was paid for with the Old Testament slave value of thirty pieces of silver, who had the placard of a slave around his neck, who was offered the drink of a slave (sour wine), who received the flogging of a slave, and who was executed by means of the apparatus reserved for slaves and the worthless—the cross.

In sum, Card is successful in reminding us of the centrality of the slavery motif to the Christian narrative, in the lives of Jesus, Paul, and of ourselves. As a song writer he fittingly draws a devotional response from the reader, while also illuminating the historical and biblical contexts, and finally flagging some attention to the ongoing problem of slavery in our times. The reader is left in awe of the risen Christ, who, despite his exalted state, still cooks breakfast for his disciples.

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Summer 2013

About the Author: David Purves is a Student Assistant Pastor with Bristo Baptist Church in Scotland, where he is involved in pastoral and mission work, particular among people recovering from addictions. He is currently working on a Masters course at Oxford University, supported by the Oxford Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture.

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