But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)
Autonomy is so ingrained in the American psyche, it is practically sacred. We want to believe that we are free to make the choices in our life, free to make true whatever grand dream or scheme we might conjure. We want to know that rags to riches stories are not only possible but reality.
But autonomy is a lie.
In the song, You Gotta Serve Somebody, Bob Dylan explains it this way, “it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna Serve somebody.” The words point out an ultimate truth. No matter your pursuit, you will always be accountable to someone or something bigger than you, something that requires you to bend your will in one way or another in order to achieve your ultimate goal.
The lyrics of the song give several examples of the illusion of power. You might be someone’s heir, you might like to sleep on silk, you might be a congressman, you might like to gamble, you might like to dance. In each instance, no desire can be fulfilled without ultimately making concessions to appease the person or powers that help make your desire possible.
At the furthest extent of this truth that we serve somebody is the reality that we humans too easily fall into the trap of letting the things we desire rule over us. I am a Diet Coke addict. If you don’t see me with a Route 44 in my hand, something is seriously wrong with my day. I use the drink to help me cope with my ever-present anxiety. (And yes, I know the caffeine is only fueling it.) Too often, I am a slave to my Diet Coke needs. I have to get in the car and drive to Sonic or Whataburger when I would rather be doing other things, but I need my drink more.
What Paul writes to the Romans applies just as much to me. I would be so much more at peace if I aligned my desires with those things that are of God. When I focus on the things of this world, like fine dining or acquiring wealth or movie stars, I unwittingly give myself over to the service of the Evil One, who uses these desires to distract me from the love God longs to give.
God’s love differs from the world’s view of love. In this world, people want to think love means letting everyone do whatever feels “right” in the moment. With this view of love, a God who calls us to a standard of goodness and morality doesn’t click. But God’s love calls us to believe in something bigger than we are, so much bigger that we have no way to comprehend its vastness.
God’s love, the love Jesus offered while He was on earth, the love that healed and showed compassion and empathy to cheaters and tax collectors, requires us to submit to God’s will at the same time its grace takes away the condemnation we deserve when we sin.
Unless you actually give serving God a try in your life, it may be hard to understand how God’s love means sticking it out with a spouse when you think you’re in love with somebody else, how God really loves you even when His law, His morality means you can’t do some of the things your heart tells you you desire most. The world may try to tell you God made you that way. Perhaps He did. I can’t keep my mind from responding with anxiety to everyday situations, even though worry goes against God’s admonishment to trust in Him each day. But, I can continually strive to submit to Jesus’ way of facing challenges rather than giving in to my anxiousness.
Because I can proceed in life knowing I will not be condemned, I can trust in Jesus’ love for me to help me live a life in submission to God’s will, which is where true peace exists.
I heard someone say recently that grace, like life, isn’t fair. It’s on offer to anyone who is willing to accept its gift, no matter their past. Aren’t we grateful for this unfairness?
Serving Jesus isn’t the popular thing to do, but it sure beats anything the devil has to offer. I’m picking Jesus. Whom will you serve?