Who wants to be “a slave of God”?

It’s that word “slavery,” or being “slaves to God,” Romans 6:22, that grates in the human mind. Slavery conjures up awful pictures of slaves in chains. Slavery restricts. Slavery is the absolute opposite to freedom.

Whatever freedom we experience in this life, though, leads to slavery of one kind or another. When we’re free to sin, for instance, there’s a brutal cost, verse 23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Our wonderful life of freedom comes to an end. It doesn’t last forever. And for creatures like us that age and die, that’s a scary thought. One day the lights go out.

But for many people that’s a price worth paying to be “free from the control of righteousness.” verse 20. Anything is better than having to obey God, because in their minds God denies us the pleasures of this life for the sake of some vague but unexciting future in a far off, fuzzy heaven. And who wants that? Life on the earth is so much better. It’s more real. It’s more fun. It’s more free.

But it’s only free while life lasts. That’s the catch. It may feel good at the time, being free to do what one wants without having to answer to any God, church, religion or priest, but what sane human would trade a life of potential eternity for a momentary life of freedom? It doesn’t make sense. But nor does it make sense to an atheist to trade a life of freedom for a life of slavery to God, either.

Unless, that is, we can describe slavery to God as something entirely different from the picture of slavery seared in our minds by this world. Fortunately, Paul does exactly that for us. When he talks, for instance, of being “in slavery to righteousness,” verse 19, it’s a wonderful state to be in because “the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life,” verse 22. There is eternal benefit to God’s kind of slavery. The end result is not lights out or a life restricted by death, it’s a life that goes on safely and wonderfully forever. To Paul, therefore, God’s slavery isn’t a restriction, it’s a marvellous gift.

But there’s still that sense of restriction, isn’t there? If we want eternal life we’ve got to become slaves. All we seem to be doing, then, is trading one type of slavery for another. But if you’re a slave in the household of someone who will protect you forever and share everything he has with you, which is exactly what God promises to do for all his believed children, slavery doesn’t sound quite so bad, does it? 

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