You were slaves of sin . . . and have become slaves of God. 

Slavery. It’s not a word we like to hear. It brings to mind some of the worst abuses of humanity, and it violates the matchless dignity of every person. Is St. Paul saying it’s okay? Of course not!

Unfortunately, the Romans Paul was writing to saw slavery as a fact of life. In the first century, as many as one in three people in the city of Rome was a slave! So Paul says he is speaking “in human terms” (Romans 6:19). Using a concept they could relate to, he talks about being “slaves of sin” (6:20). They understood being held in bondage by a power greater than their own. They had vivid images of people being compelled to obey even if they didn’t want to. And so Paul used slavery as a way of explaining the power of sin.

Being “slaves of God” is an even harder image to understand. Paul is expressing the wholehearted, freely chosen obedience that God wants every one of his children to demonstrate. Just as slaves have only one master, so we believers should love and follow God alone, not “enslaving” ourselves to sin or to anything else. We know that God loves our free will and wants us to choose to obey him out of love, not out of fear of punishment.

Paul is trying to help the Romans understand the difference between being bound by our sinful tendencies and being children of God wholly belonging to him. He wants them, and us, to understand that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

In a sense, Paul is redefining the word when he talks about our call to become “slaves” to a God who loves us and has redeemed us. He also redefines the word “master” when he tells us that God is a Master who wants to set us free!

In the end, it’s a beautiful paradox: we find our greatest freedom when we surrender ourselves to God. The more we submit to his reign, the more free we become. May we never go back to living as a “slave” to sin!

“Thank you, Lord, for setting me free! I want to belong completely to you and lovingly obey you.”

Psalm 1:1-4, 6
Luke 12:49-53
Romans 6:19-23


Subscribe To Father Maurice's Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news, inspirational blogs, and updates from Father Maurice

You have Successfully Subscribed!