Seventh Sunday after Trinity,
 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:19-23 (ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages of sin is death. It’s a colorful way of saying that death is the result of sin. Or to say that those who die do so because of sin. That isn’t the normal way we think of sin. In fact it wasn’t too long ago I was accosted in a local establishment and all but cussed out by a drunken bird for a sermon I had given some years earlier at the funeral of a friend of hers, because I stated that sin was actually to blame for her friends death, that all death is the result of sin. And though I was flattered that this woman had remembered a sermon I had given six years earlier, it became apparent that I had really failed to convey to her the true nature of sin.
In her mind, polluted by local heresies, she thought I had meant that her friend died perhaps from some particular sin she was guilty of. That certainly was not what I had meant. A baby dying, dies because of sin. Sid’s death is a result of sin. In fact there is a very real sense in which the common flu is a result of sin. In fact promiscuity is the result of sin. Kleptomania is the result of sin. Drunkenness is a result of sin. And treating these are treating symptoms rather than treating the disease which is sin.
But it is tricky, because people have been conditioned to take offense at being called sinners. They typically see this as an accusation, rather than a diagnosis. Paul says we were once slaves to sin. Slaves have no choice to what they do. A slave to sin sins because that is what sin has told them to do. Slaves to sin are free in regard to righteousness.
But now you are free from sin and slaves to God. It’s a hard thing to understand, but one is never really free. As Luther says in the Bondage of the Will, your will is a donkey, ridden by the devil or God.
That is you are either a slave to sin, or a slave to God. Equally telling in all this is slaves don’t get to choose their masters, masters choose the slave. We don’t like to think of ourselves as slaves either. In today’s world that might be even more offensive than the idea that we are sinners. Oh we talk about addiction to certain things, but we like to think that our will is free, and if we try hard enough we can choose not only to quit drinking, or engaging in promiscuity, or perhaps tougher sins like gossip, or verbally abusing those we love. But that we can choose to quit sinning, and be righteous. We like to think we can choose our masters. It’s the slave in us. That is it is the sinner in us that doesn’t want to recognize how enslaved we are. It is our desire not to be controlled by God, but to be God.
But it just doesn’t work that way. We are either slaves to sin and free to righteousness, or we are slaves to God and free to sin. And we don’t get to choose. Oh that can be scary though. Because now you begin to check to see whose slave you are? You so desperately want to be God’s slave. You know where sin leads, and you know of heaven and hell, and heaven sounds so much better than hell. But looking at our lives it doesn’t always seem that we are slaves to righteousness. Oh perhaps for a season we can convince ourselves we are not sinning, at least not that bad, but it never lasts long, not if you are me. We catch ourselves sinning. Paul who wrote this, had the same problem, he devotes the seventh chapter of Romans to explaining the struggle a Christian has with sin. But that is just it, only those who are free from sin and slaves to righteousness, are free to struggle with sin. And you are free.
You are not free of your own doing. This was not a slavery you were able to buy your own freedom from. But another bought your freedom from sin, and made you a slave of God, Jesus Christ. He purchased you, ransomed you from sin, death, and the devil, not with Gold or silver, but with his Holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. He bought you your right to be righteous despite your sin. And this righteousness leads to eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, that is all you ever earned for all your tireless work as a slave to sin, the right to die, but the free gift of God, is eternal life, life you have now to live in righteousness free from sin, free to live, free to love, free to be children of God. This is what Jesus did for you on the cross, he paid for your sin with his death, that your wages would not be paid out to you.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.