Back in the late 70’s, Bob Dylan wrote a song, “Gotta Serve Somebody” with the following lyrics:
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
I’ve never been a big Dylan fan – most of his music is just ok but these lyrics came to mind as I read today’s Romans passage. In our passage today, I hear Paul telling us that humans are always under obligation…slaves to something – see verse 17 – “you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin…or obedience”. Like Dylan’s song, we are slaves to what or whom we follow.
In a very real sense, Paul is talking about freedom. From his perspective, freedom is obedience to the will of God. And here is the hard spot for each of us – I think Americans in particular have a slightly different understanding of freedom. Often, freedom is our right to do whatever we want…it is what we often like to refer to as free will. Paul urges Christians to be slaves not of unrighteousness — doing whatever you want regardless of the consequences to others — but to righteousness, a life in service to others and to God.
So what do we do standing in this obvious gap? It seems to me that Paul is telling us that, despite our daily temptations toward sin, that God has granted us the power to aspire to and achieve more than our surroundings or culture offers. Sanctification – our daily journey dealing with as Paul says, “natural limitations” in the reality of our baptism and his coming words about the Holy Spirit as we will see in Ch. 7. This is a daily struggle for each of us. We have the grace of God daily present in our lives yet we still have our temptations…As Dylan said, We “gotta serve somebody”…Paul helps us to understand…”the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.