Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ (Jude 1a)
“Bond-servant” is kind of a funny word. I think “slave” would be a more appropriate and generally understandable term.
But what do we think of when we think of slavery? Likely we think of the brutal and inhumane abduction and trafficking of humans and back-breaking labour in the cotton-fields of antebellum America. However, slavery in the Old and New Testaments was quite different. I do not mean to suggest it was a cake-walk or comparable to the life of the free person, but you could say that harsh edge of more recent expressions of slavery are not there.
In the Old Testament, people became slaves because they could not pay their debts or because they were war captives. In each case, however, slaves could participate in religious festivals (like Passover), the life of the family to some extent, and the Law condemned unduly harsh treatment and killing of slaves. In the New Testament era, slavery was similar. Slaves were often tutors and stewards of households. There are a number of stories that record the elevated status of slaves. So this is what Jude and others like Paul have in mind when they use the term “slave.”
Followers of Jesus are now his slaves, but in the past we have experienced being slaves to Sin, and I might say that our lives under Sin looked more like the lives of black slaves in America and the Caribbean. Sin was a cruel and hard taskmaster that would do whatever it could to maintain its control over us; and we were powerless to do anything else but carry out its dictates. But when Jesus came along, he purchased us with his blood out from under the dominion of Sin and made us his own slaves.
So what does slavery to Jesus look like? Well, as our master, he retains control over us in the sense that he is the one who gives the orders and we are asked to obey. The slave does not decide what is best for himself, but rather trusts the master. So this is what Jesus asks of us: trust, faith, and obedience — in return for which he offers protection and to work toward our best interest.
To be clear, there can be no choice not to be a slave. We are either slaves of Jesus, or we are slaves to Sin and our own selfish interests. There is no third option. True self-determination is a myth.