Warning: slight spoilers for Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid ep. 12 ahead.
What would you do if you had complete freedom?
What if you had absolutely no authority to answer to, no law to fear punishment from, nor even physical needs to attend to? What would you do with that kind of freedom? Would you go exploring the world? Take whatever you want from stores? Sleep and watch anime and play video games all day?
Or maybe you would want to become someone’s maid?
One day, in an alternate fantasy world, a dragon decided to take a rest at a ruined village. However, she was visited by a bandit girl on the run. The bandit told the dragon how she admired how the dragon had complete freedom thanks to her immense power; however, the dragon herself did not feel she had freedom. After all, the dragon had been born into the chaos faction, and felt that she had no choice but to fight the divine and the order faction. The dragon asked the bandit what she would do if she had freedom, and did not have to live life as a bandit.
Her response was that she wanted to be a maid.
The dragon was puzzled; becoming a maid just meant enslaving oneself to someone else, after all. However, as the bandit girl explained, at least it would be her choice.
The dragon would remember this bandit girl even after she left. One day, the dragon, gravely injured in a divine battle, took refuge in another world, resting upon a mountain in a land called Japan. There, she met another woman: an office lady, Miss Kobayashi. This woman was too drunk to be scared of the dragon, and instead helped her, keeping her company through the night and offering her a place to stay at her apartment. At that point, the dragon, Tohru, knew she had found somebody she wanted to devote herself to, and became Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which also happens to be the title of my favorite anime of the previous season (and one I have talked about in the past).
People talk a lot about freedom, and what kind of things they would do if they were free from some thing or another: a stressful job, a bad relationship, an oppressive government, or the like. Freedom is something people place a lot of value in, so much so that the United States of America was founded on protecting particular freedoms of its people. People associate freedom with many things, but generally, servitude is not one of them. Servitude means having to follow someone else’s orders and doing things you might not want to do.
The reason people, especially Americans, view servitude and freedom as opposites is our history with slavery. Our country’s history with forcing people into servitude has had lasting effects on our country, representing not just ongoing struggles with race, but also recognition of the importance of various freedoms to all humans on our land. However, slavery was not an American invention; it has appeared in various forms across history, including in the Bible. The concept of a person having no freedom to choose what he wants to do, and only being able to do what his master says, was one very well-known to people back in the days of the early Church, enough so that Paul used slavery to talk about our own slavery to sin.
In Romans 6-7 Paul talks about how before becoming followers of Christ, people are slaves to sin. Romans 7:15 in particular is a popular verse showing what this means: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (ESV) It is something that many people can relate to; we do something we know is wrong, but we feel like some power outside of us is forcing us to do it. Whether it be something serious like an addiction or smaller things like occasional outbursts of anger, we know what is the right thing to do but feel helpless to actually do it. Paul calls this being enslaved to sin. In some ways this is much like how Tohru feels about being “enslaved” to the chaos faction she was born in. She causes chaos and rebels against the gods, not because she wants to, but because she has to obey her chaos alignment.
Thankfully, through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, humanity has been granted a choice: by following Christ, we can be granted the power to break free of sin’s enslavement. To do so, however, we have to in turn become “slaves of righteousness” and become servants of God. Of course, we can choose instead to continue to stay slaves to sin, even with God’s warning that such a choice will only lead to death and eternal separation Him and by extension from all that is good. But if we choose to serve God instead, He can start the sanctification process in us that allows us to overcome our sinful nature on this Earth, and ultimately to find eternal life in Him.
All things considered, being a servant or even a “slave” is not the worst thing in the world. Problems with servitude and slavery usually come up from two reasons. One, the master is cruel and treats the slave like garbage. Two, the person had no choice in becoming a servant. Much of the trouble with slavery in U.S. history came about because of slave masters’ poor treatment of their slaves; even the relatively better ones generally sought to deny their slaves constitutional rights they would otherwise have and looked upon them as objects instead of people. Few people would complain about being a servant to a good master who actually treated his servants as people and showed plenty of kindness to them. Part of the bandit girl’s maid dream is falling in love with her master, after all; we would have to assume that her “choice” of becoming a maid involves finding a master she could fall in love with. Likewise, Tohru happily chose to become Miss Kobayashi’s maid after seeing how kind she was (never mind how she was drunk at the time). And for us, who could be a better master than the source of all that is good, the Lord our God?
More importantly, though, God allows us to choose to serve Him. This is the freedom He gives us, as without it we cannot have a genuine relationship with Him. It is the reason why God allows evil in this world. He could forcibly make everyone obey Him and thus completely stamp out evil, but that would remove our choice, and thus our freedom. Such a forced obedience cannot result in the truly loving relationship He wants with us. As such, He must allow us the choice to sin and rebel against Him, in order for the choice to instead serve Him to have meaning. With our sin so deep-rooted in our selves, it does mean that we have to choose to serve either sin or God, with no other option besides those two choices. But at least we have that choice.
Of course, just because we make the choice to serve God doesn’t mean that we break free from sin’s control immediately. Our sinful nature will continue to try to drag us back into old sinful ways, and we will frequently still find ourselves doing things we know are wrong. We must continue to choose to serve God rather than sin, so that God can give us the power to break free from sin’s power during moments of temptation. 1 Peter 2:16 makes it clear that our freedom is not to be used as “a cover for evil”. Our freedom to serve God is a wonderful gift. The question is, what do we choose to do with that gift?
(If your answer is “watch Dragon Maid“, then enjoy this show’s excellent blend of comedy and deeper elements of emotional moments and character development, for which the above is just one example of.)
Additional Reading: One reason why Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is such a great show is because it is animated by none other than Kyoto Animation, the same studio behind well-known titles like Haruhi Suzumiya, Clannad, Free!, and Nichijou. Their titles are well-known for their incredible animation production values, and Dragon Maid is no exception. Check out Sakuga Blog’s post on Episode 12 (the episode inspiring this post) for a further breakdown of this episode’s animation and how it enhances the viewing experience.