Read Romans 6:15–23
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
New International Version (NIV)
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“I am no longer my own, but yours. I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal” (Methodist Covenant prayer).
Western societies understand human beings as autonomous individuals whose freedom is threatened internally by individuals and externally by governmental authorities. The Christian worldview, along with that of many other cultures, holds that we truly flourish only within relationships and with proper accountability. No wonder we find Paul’s language of slavery difficult! Slave of sin (20) or slave of God (22) doesn’t seem like a great choice! Paul, recognizing the limits of this point of view (19), maintains a distinction between two very different sorts of service and two very different kinds of master.
Serving sin was not a matter of choice, but in Christ we have been set free (18) to have a choice. We may now freely choose to serve God. Obedience does not require total autonomy. It requires a free choice because it must come “from your heart” (17). We have been captivated not only by Christ but by his way of life: “the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (17). We want to live according to that teaching, and we can do so only in union with Christ as we yield to God. The old life looked like freedom and turned out to be slavery. The new one looked like slavery and turned out to be freedom.
When we choose to surrender our capacities to God each day, a transforming process (sanctification, 22) gets underway. We not only make fruitful contributions to the work of God’s kingdom now, but, little by little, we change to be more like the one who inaugurated that kingdom. The two slaveries lead to very different destinations. They are literally a matter of life or death (23). Once we have grasped the nature of God’s gift of life, our daily choices become more alive and more in tune with our true selves each day.
Since I came to Christ, have others seen any change in me? Am I more like him and yet more truly myself?