By Sarah Puryear
A Reading from Romans 6:3-14
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.
Studies suggest that when someone is trying to learn a new skill, they reach a tipping point when they see their new skill not just as something they do, but as something that defines who they are. They no longer think to themselves, “I’m learning to paint” or “I’m trying my hand at sports”; rather, they say to themselves, “I am an artist” or “I am an athlete.” Once this new activity has become a part of their identity, they are much more likely to continue it permanently.
In our reading from Romans, Paul points out a similar shift in our identity in Christ. In our struggle against sin, we no longer think of ourselves as the same old self, trying to turn over a new leaf. Rather, our old identity has been crucified and put to death. How’s that for finality! Now in Christ we have been raised to a new life, in which “sin will have no dominion over you.” The shift Paul’s describing is not just a matter of changing our mindset or talking ourselves into feeling differently; rather, it describes the truest reality about our identity in Christ. The old story of sin’s dominion became untrue once we were buried with Christ in baptism: “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
But Paul freely admits that this does not automatically result in total freedom from sin’s influence. We still struggle. But we come to it from a different vantage point, from the reality of Christ’s victory. We do not successfully resist sin on the basis of our own individual virtue or willpower, but with Christ’s aid at every step of the way. As St. John Chrysostom says in discussing this verse, “He that so lives [unto God] will lay hold of every virtue, as having Jesus Himself for his ally.” As we turn away from sin and grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, Jesus is by our side as our ally, our friend, our companion in the way. Jesus has forged this new identity for us through his death and resurrection. Thanks be to God.
The Rev. Sarah Puryear lives in Nashville with her family. She is currently staying home with her young kids after having served most recently at St. George’s, Nashville. She enjoys writing for TLC’s Covenant blog.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Anglican Church of Melanesia
The Diocese of the Rio Grande