Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 6:15-23 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Paul writes, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
Slavery isn’t something that many of us have experienced in twenty-first century America. I know that it continues in the shadows—hidden in parts of our country that we don’t like to think about—but the majority of us have no idea what it means to turn our will and actions over to the dictates of another person.
I have experienced slavery once in my life. Not as a slave, but as a sort of slave master.
My slavery experience was with a 14-year-old girl whom I had known since she was born. At the time, she looked at me (and still does) as her big brother. I was in my early 20s and she needed to go to the mall, so she called me for a ride. When we arrived at the mall, she discovered that she had left all her money at home. I took this as an opportunity to have some fun, so I said, “I’ll pay for your stuff, but only if I get to tell you to do three things while we are at the mall together. If you do them without hesitation or argument, I’ll pay for your things.”
She looked at me and nearly said, “Let’s just go back to the house and get my money,” but she instead agreed to submit her will to my weird sense of humor and humiliate herself at the mall.
The first thing I told her to do was pretend she was a slalom skier and make swooshing sounds as she pretended to ski through an exceptionally long line of people at an ATM. At the end she had to ask the person in front if she had won the gold medal.
Her second task was to join an occupied table in the food court and eat two of the people’s french fries while she asked for directions to the bathroom.
The third task was my favorite—she had to go into a department store and put a bikini on over her jeans and sweatshirt and walk up to five random people and ask them where the closest beach was.
Allison completed all her tasks and she was emancipated. She’s in her 40s now with two kids and we still laugh about our little “adventure” at the mall.
Paul’s description of slavery isn’t just a trip to the mall—it’s pretty serious business. To whom and to what we are slaves can lead to either glorious or tragic consequences in this life and the life to come. I’ve seen people who have been slaves to lust, greed, and anger. It’s not a pretty sight. In fact, it’s one of the most tragic sights. And none of it has to be that way. Every slave to sin has the opportunity to be set free—because we all get to choose our master. Of course, this is easy to say and so much harder to do, especially when the slavemaster we’ve chosen throws us into a cycle of addiction. Even then, Christ is stronger than our sin.
Recalibrate: Have you found yourself a slave to something that you would rather be free from? If so, what steps might you take to allow Christ to free you from your slavemaster?
Respond: Ask God to open your eyes to things that may enslave you and ask Him to set you free.
Research: Many of us become slaves to habits. Check out this article on how habits are formed.
Remember: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, ESV).
Paul shares with us that we belong to whomever we obey. Make a list of the people whom you believe your children should obey. Read over the list with a trusted family member or friend and discuss how to relay the importance of respect and obedience for others to your child while placing the highest importance on obeying God before all others. How do you think that list will develop as your kids get older?
What are some of the really important things God has asked us to do? Do you know where they are mentioned in the Bible? Look up some of the things you think God wants you to do. Read Matthew 5:43-44. Jesus tells us to love each other. To even love the people whom we don’t like and the people who hurt our feelings! Make a card for someone to show them you love them today. Maybe it is someone you want to apologize to, or maybe it is someone who is really mean. Do you think it is hard to love people who are mean? Why?
From the time I was very young until now, I have always been all in. No matter what I’m doing, whether it is a sport, my work, or a hobby, if I like something or am committed to something, I am 100% committed. What this has taught me though, is that it is very easy for me to become a slave to the things I really love. I’m not happy to admit that, but it’s true. Yet as I have gotten older, I have learned that we all struggle with this tendency. We were made to follow. Even those of us who are leaders follow something. Maybe it’s a celebrity, maybe it’s a mentor, maybe it’s an athlete. We have a desire within us to follow that was put there by God. God wants us to be followers of Him, but most of the time we end up following something or someone else. Looking at it through this lens, why do you think Paul describes us as “slaves to Christ?” What does that phrase mean to you? If our inclination in this life is to follow, how does it make you feel to know that Christ is not exacting and hateful but loving and kind?