The legendary folk/rock/pop singer Bob Dylan sang:
You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
Believe it or not, that’s pretty good theology! The apostle Paul even writes in Romans 6:16-22,
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone 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 of 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 presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
You’re gonna have to serve somebody. You see, ultimate freedom is an illusion. Freedom from one master always entails serving another. In an age that embraces personal freedom of choice and individual self-expression as its highest values, it is vital to grasp this reality and declare it clearly.
Jesus is often resisted because people consider His lordship too restricting and costly. Jesus Himself said, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14). But the narrowness and hardness actually bring a unique freedom—freedom from the other masters that enslave.
When people are not slaves of Christ, they always serve something else. That’s what all evil is—service to sin, which leads to death. All the various expressions of human sinfulness are rooted in alternative slavery:
Scripture says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:10). Covetousness, waste, dishonesty, stealing, and economic oppression of the poor are just a few fruits that grow from this root.
The results? Guilt, dysfunctional relationships, illegitimate births, abortion, STDs, pornography addiction, lust, adultery, broken marriages, rape, and the abuse of women and children.
Power has the outgrowths of ambition, pride, desire for control, and more.
This list of hard taskmasters could easily be multiplied into several dozen. A common denominator in all of these is that they dehumanize. The more people are enslaved to them, the less likely they are to have good relationships with God or others; therefore they can’t enjoy life. They’re too busy serving their masters.
But addictions to money, sex, and power are the very things from which Jesus can set us free. He does so by leading His followers down the paths of generosity and contentment, chastity and marital fidelity, servanthood and humility. Are these restrictive? In a way, yes; but they’re also very liberating.
Although people may think and say they are free from Jesus’ “rugged moral standards,” who isreally free? Those who throw off moral restraint in their quest for money, sex, and power? Or those who enjoy freedom from the ravages of sin as they yield to Jesus and serve others with generosity, chastity, and humility?
You’re gonna have to serve somebody. The truest freedom is actually found in serving Christ. As the poet John Donne said,
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy.
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again;
Take me to you; imprison me; for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.