Thinking back from my early days as a Christian to today, I remember the great emphasis on freedom. Becoming a Christian coincided with my moving to the United States, which was founded on liberty and justice for all. Combine “American” with “Christian” and you get people apparently possessing a dizzying amount of self-determination. While I do appreciate being a citizen of this country, I must remember that, even as an American Christian, I am still a slave.
In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul writes that they were once slaves of sin (Romans 6:17). We are familiar with this terminology because we were the same. I know I can look back at my life before Christ and point to specific sins that I was enslaved to. Things I did compulsively, things I could not just stop doing, things I enjoyed, things that satisfied, though only briefly. Thus I descended further into darkness. Given enough time, this is reality for everyone. We are all born slaves to sin and we like it, even if we occasionally realize that we are living in bondage.
But God, in his mercy and grace, saved us! We are free! Or are we? God has freed us from our sins, this is true! But he has freed us to himself. This concept may be difficult to grasp for American Christians. We are used to our individual freedoms, something that has become very apparent when they are temporarily taken from us by corona-related government directives. But Paul writes that, while we have been set free from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). What has changed is not our status as slaves, but our master. Biblical language now makes sense: We have been bought for a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23). Free men are not bought, slaves are. So total freedom is not an option for humans, we always serve a master. What does that mean for us?
Being slaves of righteousness, serving God and belonging to him, is a good thing! The catechism answers: “What is our only hope in life and death? – That we are not our own, but belong to God.” Belonging to God is our only hope! Furthermore, even though we are called slaves, he is elevating us to the status of sons and daughters through adoption! Add to this every other blessing God bestows on us in salvation, and no one can doubt his goodness.
Christian, let us be encouraged by who are in in Christ. We will always belong to him, and that is good. He piles on the blessings and privileges! If you are not a Christian, you are still a slave to sin. Sin is a cruel master and will destroy you here and lead you to your eternal death. Please do not let it come to that, but repent and run into God’s open arms, where you will be as free as you can get, as a child of the most gracious master and king.