Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. (NLT)
Voluntary slavery is certainly an oxymoron. It’s right up there with a “necessary evil.” It seems that Paul could use a different analogy here. Yet, consider where he starts, “Because of the weakness of your human nature.” Human beings are designed to be loyal, to be committed to something or someone, even if it’s harmful to us, i.e. an over-referenced Bob Dylan song.
There are instances in Scripture where people did volunteer to enslave themselves to another (Exodus 21:5-6). After six years of service, a Hebrew slave had the opportunity to go free, yet could choose to remain as a slave. He would then become a slave for life. It’s very difficult to understand that circumstance. Why would someone choose to remain the possession of another when freedom is at hand? We’re not so different.
Paul writes that we are “slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which [lead] ever deeper into sin.” While these terms seem to be extreme, disobedience to God is, in fact, “lawlessness.” When we go against God’s way or find a substitute for God, we are practicing lawlessness. Pursuing our own way and depending on something or someone else for our security and well-being are indeed lawlessness, if not idolatry.
Impurity can mean immorality, but it can also indicate choosing against being set apart or holy for God. While God wants us to enjoy the lives He has given us, He never intended for us to live these lives solely to please ourselves. These behaviors enslave us.
Righteous living sounds like such an uptight term. It seems to imply staying on our guard so that others will think well of us. But, our righteousness is from Christ. Righteous living is life in Christ. Rather than focusing solely on our wants and needs, we focus on what it is that Christ is calling us to do. We allow Him to live His life through us.
What is getting in your way right now? What thoughts, desires or behaviors are keeping you from living the life that God intends? What step can you take today to do something about it?
Copyright © 2009 by Allen White
All Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.