Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Spirit of Volunteerism

The threat of poor air quality in Gettysburg (due to the Canadian wildfires) as well as the prediction of constant thunderstorms have combined to make me cancel my trip to Pennsylvania this weekend. No sense in traveling all that way only to have to stay indoors all the time. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm done writing posts about the Civil War. For example, did you know that the armies of both sides were largely made up of volunteers? "Volunteers" is a category of military service borrowed from the British who viewed it as a less costly way of defending the home islands without paying for a greatly expanded regular army. Likewise, American volunteers in 1861 were recruited by the state into regiments bearing state designations and carrying their state colors along with the Stars and Stripes. As citizen-volunteers, they fought in obedience to the dictates of duty, not in personal hatred toward those they called enemies.

I thought about this today when I was in Philippians chapter 1 and saw how Paul called himself a "slave of Christ Jesus." This isn't Jesus Christ oppressing Paul under his heavy hand. This is Paul voluntarily bending the knee to Jesus Christ, willingly looking to him as his Lord. To acknowledge Jesus as Lord is to acknowledge that you now belong to him. In declaring himself a slave of Christ Jesus, Paul is putting himself under the care of the most caring and kind person who ever lived. If there is one person you could trust with your life, confident that he always has your own best interest at heart, it is Jesus Christ. Who better to take care of you? Who better to take responsibility for you? Who better to lead you through all of life's battles? Paul is solely a slave to Christ Jesus, captive to no others. That didn't change when he was placed in Roman chains.

Today we have to pursue this same spirit of glad volunteerism. It is as we voluntarily bow the knee to Christ, acknowledging him as Lord, that we discover the true freedom of the Christian life. By doing that, we gladly relinquish our need to be in control, which is the source of the anxiety and worry in our lives. He is in control in a way I could never be. He has better plans for my life than I could ever have. Of course, bowing the knee is not a one-and-done thing. As we grow in our trust in this Lord, we find we can relinquish control of more and more of our lives, even those areas that today are out of bounds, in which we are resolutely holding back. (Don't pretend you don't have any of those.) Let's believe that tomorrow we will have grown enough in our love and trust to hand even those over to him. Then we will discover new joy in following Jesus.