Adventist Frontiers, March 2009
by Emmanuel Romero
“I would rather not be a slave to anyone,” I said to my dad.
It was a few days before I was to begin my student-missionary service, and we were having family worship. We had just read the Apostle Paul’s declaration that he was a slave to Christ rather than to Satan. “I would rather just be best friends with Him,” I concluded.
My mind wrestled to understand how Paul saw slavery as a great way to explain perfect association with God. “Afer all,” I thought, “God Himself wants freedom, joy goodness, and all that other good stuff for us.” To me, slavery implies cruelty and tyranny. So, why slavery, Paul?
Back in high school, my advice to underclassmen was, “Let nothing and no one take away your freedom.” Enslavement registers in my brain as a naturally evil thing. It goes against the values that my Western mind has grown to cherish.
After my initial kneejerk reaction, my mind began to probe the slave dilemma. Did slavery used to be a humane social institution that later was corrupted? In the Bible, there were slaves who were well treated and chose to serve their masters even when given the option to live free. Did Paul use slavery as an example of a relationship between the powerful and the weak because it was a widely accepted practice back then? Did the people he was writing to at the time have a correct picture of God?
Now I am in Natitingou, Benin, and I have gained a new perspective. Here, people have two clear-cut options––to be under the control of their best Friend or under the dominion of their utmost enemy. A country neck-deep in animism clearly holds a false notion of God. Living among these people, I feel a deep, anxious longing that they come to terms with Jesus and not miss out on the gift of salvation.
In Natitingou, everyone believes in spiritual beings, but they do not know God. I think back a few weeks and remember how I––an Adventist for 26 years–– struggled to understand the Bible message during family worship. How can I help these people accept this challenging, sometimes inconvenient gospel for the right reasons?
Our task as Christians is not just to teach God 101 to unbelievers, but also to guide them to the point where they want to have a personal relationship with God––that, like Job, they will exclaim, “I had heard of You, but now my eyes see You!”
What does it take to reach a person for God? I now see the challenge in front of me: to present the unknown God and Savior like Paul did. To portray the gospel undiluted, yet in ways the people can understand. Oh, and to not let my Western worldview get in the way. My character flaws could also obstruct the people’s understanding of God. My prayer, then, is: “God here I am. Use me. Cover me. Let it be You these people see and not me. You said that if I have just a little faith I can move mountains. That is what I need to do here.”