As our nation gets ready once again to celebrate political liberty with fried chicken and fireworks on the 4th of July, the epistle reading for this Sunday, Romans 6:12-23, reminds us that the great liberty of the Christian is not political but spiritual, a freedom from the power of sin.
One great but painful achievement of our country was the elimination of slavery as a legal institution. Yet low-paying and oppressive forms of employment still constitute a kind of virtual slavery for many people in America and around the world. See for instance a recent USA Today article about the plight of port truckers in Southern California. Paul uses that kind of enslaving oppression as a picture of the force of sin in our lives. It is a master, a form of life, from which we find it impossible to escape.
Paul’s great proclamation is that Jesus has set us free. It’s not the freedom we ordinarily celebrate as Americans, freedom to make choices like for whom to vote or whether to put chicken or burgers on the barbecue next Tuesday, but freedom to enter into a wholly other kind of servitude, service to Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” That freedom is found in deliverance from sin and following the way of Jesus.
So as the 4th arrives next week, I will be thankful for some of the liberties I enjoy as an American. But I will be even more thankful for the liberty I enjoy as a Christian, freedom from sin and its oppressive wages, which as verse 23 says, is death. What I am thankful for is the gift verse 23 celebrates, the free gift of God which is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”