Sometimes I really struggle watching movies or television shows depicting slavery. I think back to Alex Haley’s sensational mini-series called ‘Roots’ from many years ago that follows the lifeline of an African slave called ‘Kunta Kinte’. It was a hugely popular series, but for me, I found the weekly exposure of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ being portrayed in this series completely devastating. The way in which people have been abused by ruthless godless people for millennia astounds me and disturbs me greatly. Yet slavery continues today across the world in one form or another. For me, even hearing the words ‘slave or slavery’, conjures up much angst and negative thought.
Why then does Paul use the illustration of ‘slave’ in this next section of his letter? What is he trying to teach us when he says, ‘you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness’? What does Paul mean by being a ‘slave to righteousness’? I also find it interesting that Paul says, ‘Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or in obedience, which leads to righteousness?’ Did you pick up that we were once ‘slaves to sin’! So what does he mean? Can he be serious? Are we all really ‘slaves’ … ‘slaves to sin’ or ‘slaves to righteousness’? Paul is continuing his teaching on the reality of us being servants in either the ‘realm of Adam’ (sin) or in the ‘realm of grace’ (Jesus). It appears that we actually serve as a slave in one or the other!
This section of Scripture follows closely on from Paul’s teaching that knowing we have been justified by faith we cannot continue to sin with impunity. He challenges us to let go of serving sin and take up serving God with righteous acts of service. He reminds us again of the outcome of a life of serving sin. He concludes that the wages (outcome) of sin is death but the gift of God (justification) is eternal life in Christ Jesus. It really is a life and death matter as to who we serve and who we willingly commit ourselves to. Jesus once said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” This is the Master I want to serve for His yoke is light and besides He gives me eternal life! What about you?