Freed to serve

God had a simple message for the king of Egypt.

Delivered through Moses and Aaron, it is repeated six times in three chapters in the book of Exodus (chapters 7-10): “Let my people go that they may serve me.”

As I consider this, I’m struck by the irony. It’s easy to overlook because of the familiarity of the words. So let me paraphrase: “Release them from your servitude so that they can enter mine.”

Their freedom gave them an opportunity to thrive, but not on their own. Only by submitting to the true King would they find real freedom.

Some months ago, I showed you one of my indoor plants. It was, at the time, just barely alive, holding on within its indoor confinement. I saw it out outside on the porch today and was struck by how well it’s doing.

It’s flourishing outside. There’s something magical going on. It has the same partial sun, same water, same soil. But something outside makes it grow abundantly. I suppose it’s the environment it was made for.

Serving God is what we’re made for. Modern western society may chafe at the idea of having any external force impede on one’s personal freedom, but Jesus tells us that “whoever would save his life will lose it.” (Mark 8:35) C.S. Lewis puts it like this in the end of Mere Christianity:

The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and the death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in.

This challenges me. Sometimes, it feels like there is a riptide of selfishness that is constantly pulling us toward the goal of kicking back and enjoying one’s hard-earned freedom. I’m at the age where many friends are retiring or scaling back their work. It’s so tempting to see self-indulgence as the reward for years of labor.

Maybe I shouldn’t be mulling this over on the day before vacation.

Or maybe this is a good time to remind myself that the “good life” will always be found inside the framework of serving God by serving others.

God, forgive us for how often we confuse freedom with self-serving. You offer us abundant life if we’ll serve and follow you. Empower us to experience that life today even as we willingly lose our “lives” for the gospel.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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