We are continuing on with Paul as he presents his case to the new church in Rome. He is focusing on the heart of the new believer.
I feel like I’m walking into DEEP water here. The concept is so simple yet very complex. I am inadequate to bring the full meat contained in here to the table. I welcome any and all who have deeper understanding here to please share it with us.
I am struggling with Paul’s analogy for a number of reasons. The first reason is because I don’t really understand the concepts of slavery. I entered into this world long after slavery was eliminated, at least in the United States. I’m sure my view of slavery is simplistic and incomplete.
In my understanding a slave has no right to choose. They do what is demanded of them or they suffer painful consequences. The master is allowed to be as kind or cruel to the slave as he chooses and the slave has no recourse or protection. Your worth to your master was in how much you contributed to his bottom line or ultimate goal. When the slave’s usefulness is expended their life is ended or traded for another more valuable commodity.
This being said, being a “slave to sin” would constitute not having a choice in the matter. The phrase, “the devil made me do it”, takes on a whole new meaning. I would then expect those who have not given their lives to Jesus to daily engage in acts that hurt others without the ability to stop themselves and to bear no personal responsibility for their behavior.
So being a “slave to righteousness” would render the same lack of choice. One would expect the slave to always respond in ways that enhance God’s plans. There would be no personal reward for this behavior as all actions were done solely at the behest of the “Master.”
How then would a person who has no choice but to sin then encounter Jesus? How would one go from only doing evil to only doing good? How could one switch “masters” on their own?
Paul’s statement, “For when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness” (verse 20) got me to thinking a little differently about this question. Yes, it still contains the concept of slavery but it struck me a little different. Let me try and rephrase it in the words my spirit heard.
“For when you were wrapped up in sin, you cared nothing about and even ignored anything of God. God’s principals of love and eternal life meant nothing to you. Nothing was more important to you than where your next good time was coming from and it didn’t matter who got hurt along the way.” That to me is what being a “slave to sin” would look like.
So being a “slave to righteousness” would be the opposite, right? That nothing the world had to offer could compare to the joy of serving God’s purposes. Using every skill you have and every ounce of determination you possess to do only what pleases God. That’s the kind of “slave to righteousness” I want to be.
But neither of these examples hold completely true for every person on either side of the equation. I know that there are people who try to do good but still refuse to believe in Jesus. There are also people who profess to believe in Jesus who do awful things claiming to be doing them in His name. And then there are people like me who try our hardest to be the “slave to righteousness” and never get it exactly right. I mess up all the time in big and small ways.
I guess maybe that is where the human part of being a slave comes into the equation. I don’t believe there was ever a slave who did EXACTLY what they were told to do EVERY time. At some point there was resistance or a desire to be their own master. Maybe they saw someone else who had it a little better and wanted what the other had. That would answer the question of how someone would go about trying to switch masters.
Jesus provided that first example of being able to “switch Masters.” He was the first one with a living Spirit within Him. He showed His disciples what was available from His Master. He also told them that if they wanted to join Him and serve His Master that He would buy them from their current “master.” Imagine that! Not only did He offer them a better EVERYTHING but He said He would personally make sure they could gain their freedom from their current situation.
He knew it wasn’t going to be easy for us to go from sin to righteousness. We had a lifetime of practice in the one and none is the second. So He promised to overshadow our behavior with His own and train us in our new responsibilities personally. We didn’t have to worry about making mistakes because He would always be there to help us work through them and get things back on track. Our new Master was kind and loving and expected us to make mistakes but also expected us to come to Him for help when we did. That’s the kind of Master we serve! One who loves us unconditionally and is invested in our growth.
Father God, thank You for putting this passage into words I can relate to. Thank You for the “translation” in my heart. Thank You for paying my purchase price and becoming my Master. Thank You that You forgive me when I sin and bring my mistakes to You. Thank You that my heart WANTS to serve You. Thank You for giving me a choice when I thought I had none. I choose You! I choose life!