How hard it can be to live in a new vision of reality. If you don’t think so, let’s consider today’s text for Lenten reflection. Romans 6:1-11:
6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
As perverse as it may seem when stated so plainly as in the first verse of our text, it does seem that sin is not such a big deal to many people, including believers. We have come to accept the fact that we are not perfect, so we too easily draw the conclusion that grace will cover the problems we may cause by continuing to sin–just a little bit, in a very controlled way, in some little corner of life where no one else will be affected. Have we become so accustomed to the pacts that we have made with nagging yet momentarily pleasurable habits or attitudes that we play easily and comfortably on a cheapened grace?
Lent is indeed the time to identify those little agreements we have made with ourselves. Having named them for what they really are, we are encouraged to confess and renounce them. But it’s seldom a one-time decision. We have to remind ourselves repeatedly that the things which belong to a dead way of life are really that–things that do not lead toward the life we have waiting for us, but away from it. But we will seldom find success in the attempt if we do not fill our minds with the other side of Paul’s stark contrast. There’s a life to embrace, not just a death to relinquish.
Sometimes I wonder whether we spend too much effort in fearing (and falling into) the sinful ways, the destructive ways, and too little time seeking the ways of real life–the resurrection style of life, where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness (you know the list!) rule. Maybe it’s only by pursuing these things that we gradually come to see the futility of the old ways and attitudes. It sounds like Paul’s encouragement in Phil. 4, doesn’t it?
Some of us are better at this than others. Maybe some readers have found helpful ways of turning the focus from everything that’s wrong in self and others (mostly others?) to looking for ways to advance the true, the good, and the beautiful. If so, please share them.