But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness… But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:17–20, 22)
The theme of leaving behind the old self and embracing the new shines through the letters of the apostle Paul. Of course this follows from his dramatic conversion. For one moment he was persecuting Christians to the point of death while the next he was rendered blind as Jesus revealed himself to him, changing his life (and the world) forever.
But as we see in today’s passage, the new life doesn’t happen automatically. One’s will needs to be involved and committed. Paul employs the example of slavery, showing how we need to offer ourselves – our minds, hearts, emotions, actions – to right living before God. This then produces purity, holiness, and eternal life.
I recently heard an illustration that warns against our temptation to entertain sin. An eagle sees a fresh carcass floating on some ice, but moving toward a waterfall. The ice provides the eagle a place to land and from which to pick at the carcass. As the waterfall approaches, the eagle sneaks in just a few more bites. But when it tries to lift off, it finds its claws are frozen into the ice and falls to its death.
No, I’m not suggesting we are heading for that waterfall! For as Paul says, because we have become slaves to God, we will have eternal life. But the eagle can be a vivid cautionary tale against living out of the old self.
For reflection: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).