But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6: 17-18)
Paul says that we’re all slaves. We don’t have any choice about being slaves; we just are. What we can choose is our Master. Slavery to sin leads to darkness and death. Slavery to Jesus leads to light and life.
How do we move from slavery to sin to slavery to Jesus? We call that process conversion. Conversion is a moment in time when we say, “Jesus, come into my life; forgive my sin; be my Lord and Savior.” Conversion is also a lifelong process, whereby we say the above again and again.
Slavery to Jesus is paradoxical. Although Jesus wants total obedience and commitment, the deeper our slavery to Jesus, the freer we become. The same isn’t true in our slavery to sin. The deeper we go into that slavery, the more we become stuck and bound, and the more our moral sensibilities erode.
Both slaveries—that to sin and that to Jesus—aren’t static but dynamic. One leads steadily to less life, and the other leads steadily to more life. Both Masters, sin, and Jesus, are jealous Lords, and both want us in their hands. It might sound strange to personalize sin as a Master, but anyone who has been in bondage to any kind of sin knows that it does feel very personal.
In the same chapter as today’s scripture, Paul tells us where being mastered by sin will take us: “the wages of sin are death” (v. 23). Paul also tells us where being mastered by Jesus will take us: “…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (also v. 23).
As we consider our “slavery” to Jesus, I encourage us to say the following prayer: “O God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 99.)
- Using Paul’s language, how have you been a “slave to sin,” and how have you been a “slave to righteousness?”
- What led to your slavery to sin, and what did it feel like? What led to your slavery to righteousness, and what did it feel like?
- The more you serve Jesus, the freer you become. Do you want to be free? If so, how is Jesus calling you to serve others and this world?