Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Bishop (Optional Memorial)
You . . . have become slaves of God.
Slavery is a terrible evil. It always has been, and it always will be. To be enslaved means to suffer physically and emotionally. Slaves have no freedom; they are not their own person. So why in the world would Paul call himself and other Christians “slaves of God” (Romans 6:22)? And why would he say that Jesus took “the form of a slave” when he became man (Philippians 2:7)? This is yet another example of how the Bible takes our expectations and our philosophies and turns them upside down.
The first thing to remember is that Jesus came into the world to free us from sin, the slavery that every human being experiences. And second, God gave us the gift of free will, so the last thing he wants is to take it away. Instead, he lets us choose whether or not to follow him and how we will serve him—if we serve him at all.
This is exactly why Paul tells us to present ourselves by our own choice as “slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:19). He urges us to freely choose to follow God’s commands and seek his will.
Still, why would anyone who has been freed from one kind of slavery—slavery to sin—want to enter into another oppressive, life-threatening form of slavery? They wouldn’t! The slavery that Paul has in mind is completely different. It’s a slavery of love. It’s service born out of gratitude and humility, not out of coercion and abuse. It’s a voluntary gift of our lives to God, who has given us everything.
This is the kind of slavery that we choose every day. Each time we feel tempted but turn to the Lord anyway, we are choosing it. When we make sacrifices for our families that prevent us from doing whatever we want, we are choosing it. When we hold our tongues, choose to forgive, or say no to resentment, we are choosing it. And the result? “Eternal life” (Romans 6:23)!
Serving God freely is one of the greatest gifts we can offer him. It’s also the only gift that has a priceless return. Every day we can tell him, “I want to serve you, Lord. I want to obey you. Thank you for loving me so deeply. It’s my privilege to love you in return.”
“Lord, show me how to use my freedom to serve you.”
Psalm 1:1-4, 6
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