Romans 6:19. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Half the people in the Roman Empire were slaves. When Paul wrote a letter to the church at Rome we can assume that many of them were slaves, literally. So of course slavery is a natural metaphor to use for the Christian life. Notice in 6:19 that Paul admits that slavery is not a perfect metaphor for the Christian life, probably because at it’s core, Christianity is freedom. It’s an easy yoke and a light burden.
But the truth remains that every human being is a slave to something. Either to sin or to God.
Romans 6:16. Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
We are born as slaves to sin. Of course as Americans we hate this idea. We honor freedom and independence. Self-actualization and our expressive individualism rely on the idea that we are inherently free. But we are not. We are slaves. Any self-actualizing that we do is the actualizing of a sinner. Any expressive individualism we express is that of one enslaved to sin. Even the best person among us, if he is not reborn into Christ, is a slave to sin. Now don’t think that this sin has to manifest itself in immorality, and drug addiction, and perversion. It might manifest itself as moralism, and self-righteous goodness, and religion.
The fundamental plight of every human is that we all want to be free but, apart from Christ, we never will be. The freedom that our society presents to us is actually just more slavery. “Follow your heart” sounds like freedom but it’s bondage. Bondage to the internal pressure to determine my own fate, to set my own course, to live up to my own law. We all want to escape our lives. Food, sex, entertainment, screens, social media, all offer a temporary freedom, but they too become binding addictions that steal the very freedom they promise to offer.
The only other option to slavery to sin is slavery to God and righteousness. God’s love is the only thing that can actually free us from sin. Free us from us. Free us from bondage to all the things that promise freedom but can never deliver. Things that are just too small for the human heart. The way he frees us is to enslave us.
The beauty of our salvation and “to live is Christ” is that it does not deny the reality of our slavery and even our need to be a slave. We have to serve. We have to worship. We have to follow. It’s how we were made. But God offers us an enslavement to himself, the One who enslaved himself to us in the incarnation and crucifixion.
Do you believe that you are a slave to something? How does your union with Christ make you a slave to God?