Problems with Slaves

It’s amazing how much difficulty people have with the idea of being slaves.

I don’t like slavery either – certainly not in the human sense of one person completely owning or controlling another person.  Even under the best possible circumstances it still strikes me as inherently unhealthy, though I would argue that some people who are technically free but wage-slaves or otherwise overwhelmed by powers and authorities in their lives are worse off than a slave with a good master would be.

But even in the theological sense, as Paul speaks of in Romans 6, the language makes me itchy.  Am I really a slave?  Am I really as bad off as that?  Am I truly destined to be owned and controlled either by sin and death and an enemy older than myself, Satan, or controlled by the grace and forgiveness and new life to be found in Jesus the Christ?  Multiple people in conversations after worship and otherwise expressed their distaste or outright disagreement with Paul’s terminology.  I sympathize, to a point.

But, I didn’t call myself into this world.  I didn’t create me.  Much of my life is the result of things and people beyond my control.  I don’t know when and how I will die.  I am far from free in any meaningful sense of the word.  Yet I cling to the illusion of power and control.  Even were I not a theist and were inclined towards natural selection and other explanations for my existence, I wouldn’t be any better off.  In such a system I am merely the slave and product of my genes, produced with the sole purpose of perpetuating my particular brand of DNA and genetic markers, manipulated by the illusion of emotions and perceptions of meaning and greater purpose all for that singular end.

Paul is clear.  Either we are a slave to Satan or we are a slave to Christ.  There is no third option.  We are not free agents – moral or otherwise – free to determine our identity and destiny out of a plethora of options.  It is a reality only distasteful insofaras I insist on myself being more than a creature, more than a being driven by either my genes or my enemies or my Savior.  But there is such freedom in recognizing that Christ is my Lord.  In the relief of knowing what I was saved from, and the hope and promise of what I am now and will one day be.  My Creator has obligated himself towards me as my Redeemer and Sanctifier, assuring me that my worth is far beyond my salary or retirement or social standing.  Worth enough, in fact, to sacrifice the Son of God for, so that I might be saved, delivered from being a slave of death to being a slave of life.

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