The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification…But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:15-19,22)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Exodus 8:1–19; Psalm 73; Romans 6:15–23
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2Dg9nUZ
Martin Luther is often considered a proponent of human free will. This is contrary to Luther’s actual understanding of “the bondage of the will.” Luther held tightly to Paul’s words in this passage. You will always be slaves to someone or something! Previously, you were slaves to sin and couldn’t free yourself. Freed by Christ, we are not free to live as we wish, do what we want, with no accountability or responsibility for our actions. Now, we are “slaves of God,” slaves of righteousness. Paul says directly, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God…” And what is the outcome of our godly slavery? We “get,” Paul says, “sanctification and its end, eternal life!”
Our contemporary culture claims freedom of the will and encourages people to run with it! Biblical, moral and ethical teaching have been replaced by what is considered by many to be “freedom to do whatever you want, so long as you don’t hurt someone.” This misunderstands Paul and Luther, and misunderstands sin, because sin and disobedience of God always cause harm—to self, spouse, family, neighbor, community. God’s love and will, communicated through his Word, draw necessary boundaries and limits around human behavior, allowing God’s created children to live as he created us, with love, respect and consideration for all life, for his created order, for home, church and world.
Some will hear that we are “slaves of God” as negative, unwelcome, restrictive. Interestingly, the Christian understands our slavery, our yielding to God’s sovereign authority, as true freedom and liberation. Now we do not have to yield or give in to the pressures of secular society, liberal media or Hollywood. Now we are free to stand up for God’s Word and way, never giving in or giving up in our fight to live and restore godly, biblical behavior to our world. This is how God turns our lives upside down by the salvation won for us by Jesus’ death and miraculous resurrection. Our slavery to God is actually freedom, where slavery to sin is bondage to sin, death and the devil!
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the freedom that is truly freedom—yielding to your Lordship!
Lenten Response: Consider ways that you “yield” to God’s will in your life. Make a list of the ways you “yield” as a “slave of God.”
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.