and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (ESV)
The very word slave is offensive to us. Rightfully so. While we struggle to make sense of Paul's use of this word let's take a look back into the history of "slavery" in the Old Testament. It was not uncommon for an Israelite to find himself in debt beyond what he could possibly pay for. The Old Testament Law allowed for a person to submit to being a servant, or slave.
This kind of slavery that the Old Testament recommends is far different from someone being taken against their will and sold as property to another. In fact, there were guidelines in Scripture for how the slave was to be treated. There was not to be abuse of slaves in any way. They were also commanded to be freed after 6 years of service that they willingly had provided.
Listen to what Exodus tells us about a slave's option at the end of his six year term: "But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever (Exodus 21:5–6)."
I want you to consider something very beautiful. This picture from Exodus is of an ear piercing. The slave intentionally gives himself to his master for the rest of his life. It is a willing choice made out of love for his master. He is permanently marked by this piercing as the property of his master. It is a most beautiful illustration of our becoming slaves of righteousness.
Have you had your ear pierced? Go to the Lord. Tell him that you want to live for him for all of your days. Receive his forgiveness and eternal life. He is a perfect loving master.