12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 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.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When I was in high school, I sang in an all-male, small vocal ensemble. It was a Lutheran High School and we became part of the recruitment and publicity scheme for the school. Many of us were intending to go into some sort of Church work and our director would have us introduce ourselves to the churches where we often sang, making sure we told everyone what we were planning to do. The second tenor, whose father was a local pastor, stood on the end and was always the last one asked. At his turn he would declare his intention to become a sanitation engineer. When people looked at him perplexed, he clarified. He wanted to be a garbage man. Stunned silence usually followed. It was exactly what he wanted.
I paraphrase Paul’s question in verse 15, “If God has forgiven all our sins, does anything we do really matter anymore? Why not just go on sinning?” I spent the 15 years working with young people, frequently as they wondered what they should do and why they should do it? Paul’s answer speaks to us all, especially as we live in a world which often denies that life has any meaning. I have regularly used it as I had conversations with young people.
Paul says that what we do is wonderfully important. Freed from sin, we are enslaved to the righteousness of Christ. Notice, we are not free in the sense most people think of freedom. We will serve something; the question is what we will serve. But notice that our lives are not just discounted and disposed of now that Christ has forgiven all the sins. They matter a great deal. My high school classmate never was a garbage man but went on to become a Lutheran elementary school teacher and a triathlete. He eventually even made it onto the TV show “American Gladiator” in which contestants competed against hyper-fit professionals. He won! Can you imagine being one of the fourth graders who came to his class after that episode aired? But the funny thing is, had my friend become the garage man, God would have found a way to make that life meaningful too. The meaning of your or my life is not something we have to construct. Meaning is given by the one who has rendered life holy by the blood of Christ. That takes a lot of pressure off. Enslaved to that righteousness, you and I are God’s people in this time and place, filled with His significance. Pray for a high school or college graduate today that they may rest in that confidence. Pray that you rest there too!