It seems that for Paul in Romans 6, the lot of human life is slavery. Before accepting Christ, he says, people were slaves to sin. After accepting Christ, people are slaves to righteousness or to God. How can all of this talk about slavery be good news? To answer this question, we must understand the nature of freedom.

When we think of freedom, we can think in two directions. There is freedom from and freedom to. Freedom from has to do with breaking away from oppression, while freedom to concerns being empowered to do or have something that was previously off limits. Importantly, when the Bible speaks of freedom, it never speaks solely in terms of freedom from. Instead, we see people being freed from something in order that they may experience freedom to something else. Think, for instance, of the people of Israel. When God freed them from Egypt, he didn’t simply abandon them in the wilderness. Instead, he made them his own people and gave them a land of their own. Freedom from slavery in Egypt led to freedom to be God’s people and posses the land.

Similarly, when Christians are freed from the power of sin, they are freed to serve God. This sounds like another form of slavery, but it is actually the path to life. Think of it like this – a piano player is free to play the piano only after she submits to regular practice. The practice itself might seem oppressive, but it leads to a freedom to make music that was formerly off limits. In like manner, service or slavery to God might seem oppressive – as if all the “fun” things in life are off limits – but it ultimately leads us to become the best version of ourselves. That is, we become people who live our lives connected to the one true God and take on all the righteous virtues that make for a truly good life. Paul sums this truth up like this:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Slavery to sin leads to death, but slavery to God leads to eternal life that starts in the here and now as we become who we were meant to be.