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, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. — Romans 6.17–18
The proposition of Christianity is not, live free or submit yourself to Christ. Instead, the gospel challenges its hearers to recognize the way things of this world enslave and disappoint—and to abandon those things for Christ.
“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism,” David Foster Wallace said in his famous talk This is Water. “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”
The influential author went on to explore that in comparison to the divine, “pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” Paul’s suggestion that we become slaves to Christ isn’t a surrendering of freedom, it’s the beginning of freedom from the masters that destroy human flourishing. Foster Wallace continues:
If you worship money and things—if they are where you tap real meaning in life—then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you… Worship power—you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.
Paul calls the faithful to submit to Christ: “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.” In other words, the more you double down on your commitment to things which cannot fulfill, the more you get hurt—give yourself now to Christ, only he is sufficient to meet the deepest longings of your soul.
Foster Wallace concludes, “Freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.”