“Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.”
Romans 6:19 NLT
Paul now introduces the Roman Christians to something called holiness. He tells them that the consequence of living in a righteous way is that they will “become holy”. We know, of course, that God is holy. At the end of Psalm 99 we read, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain in Jerusalem, for the Lord our God is holy!” In revelation 4:8 we read about four Heavenly beings continually proclaiming God’s holiness, “Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”” And there are many other verses proclaiming God’s holiness. Nothing sinful can survive, or even get close, to our holy God. He is perfectly righteous, giving us the connection to being “slaves to righteous living”. But the Roman Christians of Jewish origin would have known about their need to be holy, because they would have had access to Scriptures such as Leviticus 19:2, “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Did they perhaps think that the new freedom in Christ relieved them of such an obligation? If they did, Paul soon set them right.
What about us pilgrims? Are we living a holy life? A life set apart from the sinful world around us, a world full of people who apparently lack a moral compass and fail to do what is right? That happened before in Israelite history. It is nothing new. We read in Judges 21:25, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” It sounds remarkably similar to what is happening in our Western societies. Politicians who do not know the King are suggesting and approving legislation without any reference to the higher Power, and instead are listening to, and obeying, their devil-inspired, sinful selves. Of course, we cannot shut ourselves away in a protected, holy space somewhere, like a modern day monk or nun, much as we would like to sometimes. In Jesus’ longest prayer, He prayed for His disciples, and we read in John 17:15-16, “I’m not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” We pilgrims live in this world, whether we want to or not, but we don’t have to be a part of it. And we echo Jesus’ prayer by asking our loving Heavenly Father to keep us safe from the “evil one”.
We pilgrims are now living as slaves to a righteous life, sanctified by the blood of Jesus, holy in God’s sight. And we don’t look back on what we once were, but we look forward in our journey to the Promised Land, Heaven itself. A place of righteousness and holiness for eternity.
Father God. We worship You, the Holy One, grateful for Your grace, and patience with us. Amen.