15 What should we say then? Should we sin because we are not ruled by the law but by God’s grace? Not at all! 16 Don’t you know that when you give yourselves to obey someone you become that person’s slave? If you are slaves of sin, then you will die. But if you are slaves who obey God, then you will live a godly life. 17 You used to be slaves of sin. But thank God that with your whole heart you obeyed the teachings you were given! 18 You have been set free from sin. You have become slaves to right living. 19 Because you are human, you find this hard to understand. So I am using an everyday example to help you understand. You used to give yourselves to be slaves to unclean living. You were becoming more and more evil. Now give yourselves to be slaves to right living. Then you will become holy. 20 Once you were slaves of sin. At that time right living did not control you. 21 What benefit did you gain from doing the things you are now ashamed of? Those things lead to death! 22 You have been set free from sin. God has made you his slaves. The benefit you gain leads to holy living. And the end result is eternal life. 23 When you sin, the pay you get is death. But God gives you the gift of eternal life. That’s because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.
I am struck by the interplay between “offering ourselves” and the concept of being a slave. It seems to me that the writer of Romans is talking about voluntary slavery here, or willing slavery.
I’ve always conceived of slavery as something forced on a person – by circumstances, by foreign powers, etc. But here, the writer describes a slavery that is as a result of our choice.
The power of this for me is simple – when I think of slavery, especially slavery to sin, as something I’ve got no control over or no say in, I can excuse myself of responsibility. But this passage doesn’t allow me to do so.
Sin is something I “offer myself to.” I’m responsible. I can’t just blame the devil, certain relationships, the world. There might be pressures exerted on me from any or all of these. But I have a choice of response. I have a will in the end.
My responsible choice must be, in the words of Romans here, to “offer myself” as a slave of righteousness leading to holiness, and eternal life. Why, as a slave? Well, if I’ve used my will in the past to choose sin, and that’s a choice for death, it’s probably a good idea to focus my will, and constrain my will. Not because God isn’t into freedom, but because I can tend towards willfull self-destruction. Hence, constraining my options, with His help, towards what is righteous. That means, I constrain myself to a life focused on living right with God, and with people.
Lord, help me to focus my will on living righteous before you and with my fellow man. Please give me grace to rise in strong and clear personal responsibility here. Amen.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh