Slavery is contemporarily classified as a morbid evil that once permeated, and in many ways still persists in human civilization and this classification is true. It is true in the sense that African Americans should never have been treated as they once were. It is true in the sense that human trafficking is a vile concept. It is true that the owning of one individual by another, at least where the one individual is treated cruelly, should not be an acceptable practice, and neither should the selling of human individuals for profit. This is not all that slavery is. How can it be when people today are ruled over by so many other, more horrifying, things?

People are ruled over, it seems, by their yearning for the acceptance of other people. In this way, though ownership does not express itself by way of deed or contract, people own other people because those people have given them ownership by doing what will gain them acceptance. This political correctness and this pluralism enslaves most people in western society, and we have seen the consequences when men like Phil Robertson refuse to be a slave to others by way of acceptance. People are also ruled over by their own ambitious nature. Oh what people will force themselves to do in the interest of gaining attention and gaining material wealth. Ambition is not freedom and we have seen the consequences as those like Adam Lanza fell to the stresses of such an ambition and as those like Miley Cyrus changed who they were in the interest of such ambition. People are ruled over by their religions, dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to one teacher or to one line of thought, never critically examining the nature of that belief. We saw the consequences as Roman Catholicism took political power in Medieval Europe and as wars broke out all over the continent in the interest of Christendom against the newly formed Muslim faith, and again as Catholics and Protestants murdered one another on the basis of orthodoxy. Even Atheism lately has not been content in living free from such religious slavery, seeing as it is committed religiously to ridding the world and the human mindset of all religion and of all belief in God. All people in all cultural and socioeconomic contexts are slaves to something because they have given themselves over to a particular view of the world. In fact, without admitting some form of slavery, it is impossible for people to even claim existence. For, to have began to exist is to be contingent on the universe at large. Even the universe, which began to exist, is contingent on something external (i.e. a slave to God). The one who does nothing is a slave to laziness and the one who does only what he wants is a slave to entertainment. The problem that we encounter is not the idea of slavery. The problem we encounter is the question of which slavery is worthwhile, and of whether or not there is a chance at true freedom.

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, You shall not covet. But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”[1]

Two divergent slaveries

As we might recall, Genesis 3 presents us with a story in which mankind chose to break God’s only command in the interest of self -reliance. That is, he wanted to seek knowledge for himself and be like God on his own. So this law of sin that Paul writes about is a slavery that one has over himself: being unable to overcome himself or see anything greater than himself. Paul refers to this law in respect to action, also stating that this action that is oriented with self-interest is not necessarily seen as wrong by those participating in it. We may sin, and at the same time feel confident in that sin or even see that sinfulness as righteousness. What it took for Paul to realize that he was a slave to sin or a slave to self was something external, namely the written law that God provided. In the same way, then, all men and women are slaves to self. There must be an objective truth and there must consequently be an objective morality. To be so consumed with self, or to be enslaved by self, is to be content with some sort of relative truth or morality.[2] It is necessary, then, for any individual to be exposed to something external and true in order to gain liberation from that slavery and it is in that slavery that all other worldly slaveries persist (e.g. slavery to religion, to ambition and to acceptance).

Diversely, Paul here refers to serving, or being a servant of the law of God (law of grace) with his mind. The only way, it seems, to gain freedom from self is to submit to something with more authority than self. So, if there is no God, then men are destined to b only men and to continue doing what men have always done. If there is a God then there is hope for the possibility of man’s escape from slavery to the inconsistent self. The conflict, then, lies in the notion that to end one slavery, another slavery must be accepted. To be a slave to the law of God is to put self aside and to follow what God has passed down to humanity. It is to recognize necessary or absolute truth and morality and it is to glorify God rather than self. It is an escape from the vicious cycle of self-serving action, thought and belief but it is an acceptance of a higher level of sacrifice, as noted by Paul as he describes his struggle against the law of sin.

Nature of freedom- God provided the law that individuals may be free from sin

            Freedom, after all of this, becomes a curious term. Whence did humanity ever gain the idea that he could be free? For, to be free from one state is to be a slave to another. Even in his proclaimed freedom from religion, the atheist must contemplate as to whether or not he has free will due to the laws and nature and of cause and effect. The Theist asks whether or not God has actually given freedom of choice. The pantheist questions as to whether he is even a being in himself or whether God, being in all and being all, is in him and controlling every movement and every thought. Freedom, as it is contemplated, becomes an elusive ideal that cannot be achieved, seemingly, in a pure fashion. Men can be free from one thing, but must submit to another. Why is this? Why can men simply not just be free?

Who is more free?

            Men cannot, it seems, be truly free because they must commit themselves to some sort of worldview. Even Nihilism has a classification being the belief that no beliefs should be held. By yearning for complete and utter freedom, men submit themselves to even a greater and more naïve slavery. The question men must ask is not, then, “How can I be free?” but instead, “Which submission or commitment is the most worthwhile?” The only commitment, according to scripture, that is worthwhile in the scope of both finitude and eternity is a commitment to the one true God. Paul writes, in Galatians 5:1, that “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (HCSB). This statement demands obedience to Christ while, at the same time, demanding that God’s people not conform to slavery to specifically the ritualistic law (which also represents one’s false ability to return himself to God). Here, Paul submits to the fact that slavery to God should be counted as freedom while slavery to self is in fact slavery.

Consider this. If God did indeed create the world in which we live, then it is He who also wrote the laws that govern the world we live in and who is the standard for truth and morality. If it is God who wrote the governing laws of this world and who is the standard for truth and morality, then all men are slaves to those laws and slaves to that standard for truth and morality. To choose also, then, to be a slave to self-developed or self-perceived laws or standards for truth and morality is to be enslaved by a greater number of laws and standards and laws and standards of contradiction (for all men must always be subject to God’s laws and standards). The most freedom that can be experienced, then, is by faith in and obedience to God, because that sort of commitment enables any individual to forsake the laws and standards that were self-developed or self-perceived and to trust in God’s laws and standards and His laws and standards alone. The one who believes in God and who has trusted in the Christ is the most free. This is why liberty can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Christ offers no condemnation

For those who are in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation. Freedom is one’s not being bound by condemnation. Each man owes a price that he cannot pay for the sins that he has committed. The price is his own life offered up in perfection, but he is not perfect. This is the reason Christ became such a sacrifice for all men, paying each man’s debt to God for him. For those, then, who are in Christ, their debt is paid and they are free from condemnation. Those who are not in Christ are not free. My hope is that you will be free from such a condemnation. Trust in Christ for that.

[1] Romans 7:7-8:2 (ESV)

[2] Relative truth here is not contingent truth. Contingent truth is a fact that relies on earlier facts or is dependant on necessary truth while relative truth is truth relative to the mind of the individual and is not, according to the individual, contingent on necessary truth. Relative truth, here, is the same as unnecessary truth being heralded by an individual as necessary truth.