37 years ago today, my day started out at St. John Hospital on Moross.  Somewhere around 7:00 a.m. our second son, Joel, was born.  A few hours later I was at the Belle Isle Conservancy officiating a wedding.  In between I picked up our older son, Matthew, from one home and dropped him off at another.  It was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and most people we knew were either out of town or busy.  I was glad that, according to my routine, I had done all of my wedding prep a few days prior.

This past week I met with a young man – younger than I was 37 years ago – who lives by (and loves) a very structured routine which includes work, weightlifting, and worship (just to name a few items).  He tells me that he has a difficult time maintaining focus when it changes.  Some might think of him as being a slave to his routine, but to him it is freeing.

I find the same thing to be true for me.  I intentionally structure each week because I find it to be freeing.  I have a regular prayer routine during my ‘roadwork’ that frees me from thinking about how much longer I have to go.  I follow the same route each time for a similar purpose.  I routinely publish a “Hetzner’s Week” so my teammates have an idea of my plans each week.  This schedule always includes the disclaimer “expect changes” because the routine of planning a schedule frees me to make changes and insert different activities … and, you better believe, when I am ‘on holiday’ this entire routine goes out the window – because I am not a slave to it.  However, when I think about it, in regard to my routine, I am both slave and free!

And what about you?  Are you a slave to routine or totally free from it?  And how does your answer change when the word “routine” in the question is replaced with “Jesus”?  Saint Paul urges us, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. … For you were called to freedom.” (Galatians 5.1, 13a) But how does this line up with Jesus saying, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave”? (Matthew 20.26-27) Did Saint Paul miss the memo or was he just giving the words of Jesus an update?

Though what I am about to say may be difficult to digest in the adversarial climate of our times, the answer is found in a both/and – and not in either/or.  We are both slaves and free.  Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin … this, then, frees us to give our lives to Christ, thus becoming his slaves.  And, before you conclude that Paul missed the memo from Jesus, listen to how his thoughts quoted earlier continue.  “For you were called to freedom, brothers (and sisters).  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5.13) When we refuse to freely love and serve our neighbor we are in fact stepping back into slavery!

Now, part of me says, “I don’t care if you are a slave to routine or totally free from it,” however, in my experience, without some routine our lives lose focus and productivity.  And focus and productivity are major contributors to purpose … which, I believe, is a primary ingredient to health. And, since I want you to be healthy, I will counsel you to have a routine.  In the same way, I will advise you today that it is through the freedom that you have in Christ that you are freed to “love your neighbor as yourself”– and that the slavery alternative is “if you bite and devour one another, you will be consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5.14-15) In other words, we, like Christ and in Christ, are freed from slavery to give ourselves to the slavery of setting other slaves free. … and to refuse is to “submit again to a yoke of slavery”.

Now, I wonder what this has to do with what happened 37 years ago today?

Slave or Free