Monday, January 12, 2009

Romans 6

Paul is addressing the inevitable question: “If all your sins are forgiven, why do you need to ‘be good?’”

His answer is, (in part and channeling a friend of mine who kindly fixed up my new computer last night,) “That would be like running Windows on your new iMac.” You could do it, but you would be undermining the greatness of the work of Christ and ultimately cheating yourself out of the gift He has given you.

Paul addresses Christ’s resurrection, the work which grants us eternal life, in verses 8-10 in order to draw a parallel between victory over death and victory over sin.
in verses 5-7, he makes this point:

Christ died, and we have been joined with him by dying too. So we will also be joined with him by rising from the dead as he did. We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us and we would not be slaves to sin. Anyone who has died is made free from sin’s control.

The gift is of Christ is not only freedom from death, but also freedom from sin. It is only in freedom from sin that we can be free from death, but I don’t want to overlook the magnitude of that second freedom in and of itself.

Looking at this from another direction, if someone is asking, “Why should I be good if I am forgiven for being bad?” what they are really fighting against is letting go of something they enjoy in life that is contrary to God’s will as they understand it. As a twenty-something (admittedly barely hanging on to that title,) the people in my life are usually talking about “partying” in some form. Whether that is alcohol, drugs, sex, or just plain irresponsibility doesn’t make any difference. Why would these people, or anyone, want “freedom” from the lifestyle they are enjoying so much? Paul’s answer is easy to refute and impossible to deny:

Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone [or something], then you really are slaves of that person [or thing.]

The mouth says: I’m not a slave to drinking. I’m not a slave to smoking. The heart echoes the truth: Why is it that sometimes I just don’t feel right until I have that drink?Why did I spend more on cigarettes this month than I paid on my credit card debt, even though that debt is keeping me up at night?

The specifics of my own don’t matter, because the cycle is familiar to anyone who has wrestled their own demons. I felt bad- depressed, bored, insignificant, stressed- I turned to my self-help of choice, I felt “better.” The next day, I was about as glad to be done with the cure as with the sickness, and I was haunted with the knowledge that the next time I felt bad, I would most likely find myself going down the same path. The truth is that even as they brought pleasure, those dark little things brought pain because I knew in my heart I was enslaved. If I really faced the truth, I knew that without them, there would be a hole in my life that I couldn’t fill. It is torment to know that you are not complete without some ugly thing that must be bought, made, done, added- over and over again- that is not you but less than you.

It’s not like that with God. God fills that void with Himself - something not you but greater than you, something that is not made or bought or done, but given. That is what freedom from sin is all about. It’s about the power to overcome that which makes us less than what we desire to be, because ultimately, we desire to be beautiful, pure, and wonderful, and that is what God desires from us as well.