At his death, the great artist Michelangelo left many unfinished projects. But four of his sculptures were never meant to be completed. The Bearded Slave, the Atlas Slave, the Awakening Slave, and the Young Slave, though they appear unfinished, are just as Michelangelo intended them to be. The artist wanted to show what it might feel like to be forever enslaved.
Rather than sculpting figures in chains, Michelangelo made figures stuck in the very marble out of which they are carved. Bodies emerge from the stone, but not completely. Muscles flex, but the figures are never able to free themselves.
My empathy with the slave sculptures is immediate. Their plight is not unlike my struggle with sin. I am unable to free myself: like the sculptures I am stuck, “a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Rom 7:23). No matter how hard I try, I cannot change myself. But thanks be to God, you and I will not remain unfinished works. We won’t be complete until heaven, but in the meantime as we welcome the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, He changes us. God promises to finish the good work He has begun in us (Phil. 1:6).
God, thank You that You make us new creatures through the work of Your Son Jesus Christ, freeing us from our slavery to sin.
He is the potter; we are the clay.
The war between the good we want to do and the bad we end up doing is a struggle for all Christ-followers. Paul places this tension as being between his “inner man” (his renewed heart and Holy Spirit-guided conscience) and the “flesh” (the fallen nature that still is drawn to sin). The good news is that someday we will be renewed in mind and body—free from the temptation to sin and the impact of our sinful choices.