“I give you my assurance, everyone who lives in sin is the slave of sin.” – Jn. 8:34

Christians, reflecting on both the Scriptures and their own moral experience, have searched out the meaning of sin. No one definition, description, imagery, or metaphor can capture the full meaning of sin, but the image in today’s Gospel reading is rich and instructive.

The image is slavery. Sin is slavery. While the classical meaning of slavery involves some measure of physical bondage and environmental limitation, the more important dimension of slavery is spiritual. The real evil of slavery is the loss of one’s psychological freedom and moral integrity. It is in that sense that sin is slavery. St. Paul says that sin is the kind of slavery where one abjectly submits oneself to a foreign power (see Rm. 6:15-23). The person who is a slave to sin does not do what he or she wants to do but what the power of sin wants to do (Rm. 7:19-20). A habit of sin means that the grip of evil is so tight that one cannot, without supreme effort, shake it off. A person can allow a sinful attitude so that it becomes part of the personality. To allow oneself to be dominated by sin is to be a slave to sin.

The sinner-slave needs to be set free. Jesus describes sin as slavery and goes on to say, “If you live according to my teaching, you are truly my disciples; there you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” True discipleship brings us to the truth and sets us free. The truth is that the power of sin has been overcome by the power of Christ. St. Paul explains that once sin reigned and we were slaves to sin, but now Christ reigns and we belong to him.

Lent is a “freedom journey.” In Lent we are involved in a journey to renewed discipleship and a fuller entering into the saving death and Resurrection of Christ. The journey is a hard one, for the chains that hold us in slavery are strong. But we do not make that journey alone.

What can I renounce today that keeps me from being truly free?

Adapted from Daniel L. Lowery, C.Ss.R.