Shouted the Roman centurian. So goes one of the most memorable scenes in my favorite movie of all time "Ben Hur". Another Roman soldier beating a drum, picked up the tempo as the slaves in the bottom of the Roman War Galley pulled their oars to the accelerated beat. A minute later, they ram another ship, and successfully shear off the oars of the enemy galley, disabling it. The Romans are ultimately victorious in the battle
The whole movie Ben Hur was written as "Another Tale of Christ", as seen through the eyes of Judah Ben Hur, a fictional Jewish Prince whose life intersects Christs' from birth to death. In the above mentioned galley scene, Judah Ben Hur is one of the slaves, chained to his oar in the belly of the ship. He is told by the Arius, the proconsul who is aboard, (and who happens to be one of the most important men in the Roman Empire), that "You live to serve the ship". Through a series of events, Ben Hur is released from his servitude and adopted by the proconsul as his son, raising Ben Hur from the position of a slave to an heir of the greatest empire in the world.
Although this particular incident probably was not intended by the author of Ben Hur to serve as one of the many biblical metaphors throughout the movie, there is a fantastic picture here of our role as believers in the church. It first came to my attention when I was studying some of the Greek words for "minister" in the New Testament. A word that Paul uses in 1 Cor. 4:1 ("Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ , and stewards of the mysteries of God." ( KJV) The word that is used for "minister" is "huperertes"; (Strongs #5257). It is a nautical term, used in Paul's day by sailors. It literally means "under-rower" (huper-under, and ertes-rower). It would have been Ben Hur's position in the ship. A huperertes is the guy who is chained to the oar, who has to pull when he is told, in synchronization with the other "huperertes". An under-rower lives just to serve, with no expectation of earning his release. He exists to listen to the tempo set by the captain, and pull in tandem with his fellow slaves. That is the imagery that Paul uses for being a "minister". It is not being the captain, centurion or proconsul. It is a life of obedience, servitude, and cooperation. The contrast with what we think of as a "minister" can be startling! This position, I believe, is what God expects of all of us. An abandonement of self-will and pretentious thoughts of our own grandeur. We live to serve the ship. (Kingdom of God). When the battle is won, we will be elevated before all to our positions as royal sons in the Kingdom. That day is coming, when Christ returns, and our sonship will be manifest to all creation.
For the moment, however, we need to occupy the role which God has for us. It requires all of our energy and sweat. There is no room for a huperertes who believes that he or she should be top-side, lounging up on deck. This isn't a Carnival cruise. There is no room for huperertes who pull their oar to their own time. It must be synchronized. A huperertes isn't beating the drum for others. A huperertes listens and pulls. That is pretty simple. So grab an oar. This ship is destined for victory. Be an under-rower in the Kingdom.