Rom 6:1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But 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 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. 12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Paul writes to a fledgling Christian group in Rome who are struggling to understand their new faith. He has just explained that sin is awful, but God’s grace can overcome sin and its consequences. Chapter Six then encourages the readers to choose a new way of life: “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This is not pretending that sin has miraculously disappeared from the life of one who follows Jesus. Rather it is urging Christ-followers to “no longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God… as instruments of righteousness”. This speaks to the fact that we can choose our actions. We are not to see ourselves as helplessly addicted to sin, but instead the Grace of God enables us to resist the temptation to evil and choose to do that which is good.
This is an important reminder not only in relation to our interior life, but also in life in community. We live in an age where concepts of right and wrong are subjected to democratic vote. The will of the majority is seen as the right thing to do – even when the will of the majority favours something evil! It is at such times that the easiest option for an individual is to either join the opinion of the majority, or simply remain silent. Paul urges us “do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.” Here is the moment for the individual to stand up for what is right – because the Grace of God demands it. Søren Kierkegaard speaks of the need for the “single individual in the crowd” to stand firm for what is right. He pleads for a “suffering witness to the truth” to confront that which is wrong. I pray that this might be true of me – and of you!
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
the trumpet call obey;
forth to the mighty conflict,
in this his glorious day.
Ye that are brave now serve him
against unnumbered foes;
let courage rise with danger,
and strength to strength oppose.
Text: George Duffield, Jr., 1818-1888
Second Sunday after Trinity
32 God’s Gracious Love
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 202.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.