Are Christians slaves?
Isn't total obedience to God just like slavery?
“Christianity is all about rules – be good, don’t lie, don’t swear, no sex before marriage… I just wanna be free to do what I like!”
How often have you heard this from your friends? How often have you said it yourself? (I know I have!) To the world, Christianity seems like slavery – and who wants to be a slave? Wouldn’t you rather be free? Well, Romans 6:15-23 says something interesting: sin – rejecting God – is slavery too.
Why not do whatever you want?
Following on from his last line in verse 14, Paul tackles another question he anticipates his readers asking: seeing as God will be kind to us and forgive our sins, why not simply do what we like (6:15)? We don’t have to do anything to be saved – we’ll even be saved in spite of the evil we do commit. Why bother trying to do the right thing? We should just be free and do whatever we want, apologising later and getting more of that unlimited, no-strings-attached forgiveness.
Well, perhaps strangely, we were never free in the first place. Paul says we’re enslaved by what we’re living for; that thing we seek after and crave the most – that is our master (6:16a). If we just want to have fun, we’re really just slaves to pleasure; if we just want to be popular or ‘successful’, we’re really slaving after the approval of others; if we just want to be financially secure, we’re slaves to money.
Everyone's a slave to something
All in all, though, if we are seeking something other than God, that thing has become our ‘god’ and we become enslaved to it. In rejecting God, though we might think we’re free, we're actually slaves of sin.
Serving our less-than-God masters might feel alright for a short time; pleasure, popularity and money, and all the rest of our idols, satisfy for a while. But when that satisfaction runs out, we crave more. We become addicted, and so sin (rejecting God) leads to more sin (6:19a). We get stuck in a cycle of temporary happiness and lasting dissatisfaction we can’t break. (And if you don’t think that’s true, try going just one day without failing to love your neighbour as yourself – let alone love God with all your being – and see how that goes). We were free from having to do the right thing (6:20), but we were, or perhaps still are, addicted to doing the wrong thing.
Setting free the slaves
But God intervened. He sent his Son to set us free from sin (which is what ‘redemption’ means) by dying for us. So we shouldn’t give ourselves to serve anything other than God – we shouldn’t slave after sin – knowing that rejecting God is the source of all the wrongs we commit against Him and each other (Romans 3:10-18), and that the punishment for sin is eternal death and separation from God (Romans 6:21, 23a). Instead, God has become our master - a perfect, loving master. We are to obey him and put all our effort into living rightly with him and each other (6:16b, 17-18).
Our ‘wages’ – what we earned – from slaving after sin was God’s anger. What we are given, if we are 'slaves' of God, is sanctification: we’re made more like Christ, loving God and each other increasingly and serving Jesus more and more (6:19b). Eventually, we will be given eternal life, where we will enjoy something far greater than the small pleasures, approvals or riches of this world: God’s love and Christ’s glory for all eternity (6:22, 23b).
Romans 6:15-23 presents us with a choice. We can choose to continue as slaves of sin, knowing nothing truly good and lasting can come of it and that we will face God’s judgement on the last day. Or we can ask God to free us from sin and make us slaves of righteousness, knowing that the result of this is eternal life in the love of our Creator.
So, will you make the trade?