What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.
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. 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. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 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. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about an 80-year-old man who went to the doctor for a checkup and the doctor was amazed at what good shape the guy was in. The doctor asked, “To what do you attribute your good health?” The old timer said, “I’m a golfer and that’s why I’m in such good shape. I’m up well before daylight and out golfing up and down the fairways.” The doctor said, “Well, I’m sure that helps, but there’s got to be more to it. How old was your father when he died?” The old timer said, “Who said my father’s dead?” The doctor said, “You mean you’re 80-years-old and your father is still alive? How old is he?” The old timer said, “He’s 100-years-old and, in fact, he golfed with me this morning. That’s why he’s still alive, he’s a golfer.” The doctor said, “Well, that’s great, but I’m sure there’s more to it. How about your grandfather? How old was he when he died?” The old timer said, “Who said my grandpa’s dead?” The doctor said, “You mean you’re 80-years-old and your grandfather’s still living?! How old is he?!” The old timer said, “He’s 118-years-old.” The doctor was getting frustrated at this point and said, “I guess he went golfing with you this morning too?” The old timer said, “No…grandpa couldn’t go this morning because he got married.” The doctor said in amazement, “Got married!! Why would a 118-year-old guy want to get married?” The old timer shot back, “Who said he wanted to?!”
I’ve heard it said that there are three keys to longevity in this life: good golf games, good crosswords, and good wives. But just as Paul told us love is the greatest gift over faith and hope, so, too, is the gift of a good wife. Eyesight eventually falters, knees eventually give way, but a good wife and the love she shares never fades. Grandpa must have known this. Maybe it took grandpa losing his eyesight and knees to realize this! Regardless, he knew it so the joke’s really on his son and grandson who had yet to realize it. They couldn’t understand why he’d marry at such a ripe old age and that’s their loss. Perhaps one day when their own eyesight and knees were lost they’d come to appreciate the value of a good wife.
But as great a good wife is in keeping us poor schmucks going, there is yet an even greater gift for keeping us all going: the gift of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul understood this all too well as we heard in our passage from his letter to the Romans. Paul very astutely taught us that in Christ we have already died and in Christ we already have new, unending life. If we believe that Jesus died for our sins and brought our sins into death, then when he rose from the dead a new being, we, too, rose as new beings. We have “newness of life” as Paul refers to it. We are “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” All week long I’ve been wrestling with what these two expressions may mean. What does it mean to have “newness of life” and to be “alive to God?” It’s more than the gift of longevity that good crosswords, golf games, and wives can provide. No, the gift that Jesus provides is the gift of life itself. It’s the gift of awareness of God and God’s love. It’s the gift of peace and harmony with all life in this world. It’s the gift of true life. What good is a long life if it isn’t a good life? Who would want more life if it meant continuing to be separated from God? Bad living, sinful living, only keeps us away from God and God’s love. Who wants to live a life without God’s love? I can’t imagine too many of us would want to. I suspect those who claim they’re fine living life without God’s love have yet to fully experience his love, or at least be aware of the fullness of his love. People go on sinning because they just don’t know the joy of God’s love. They think the “joy” found in sin is the greatest joy in this world. But they are so mistaken! Yes, there is a joy that far exceeds the sinful pleasures of this world and it can only be found in believing and trusting in Christ.
Those who have yet to know Christ have yet to know joy and love. A wife’s love is a mighty gift indeed but it pales in comparison to Christ’s love. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us and our salvation and he stood to gain nothing for it. Jesus wasn’t earning his way back into heaven. He wasn’t trying to get back in the good graces of the Father. Nor did he hate living among us. Jesus loves us! Jesus died for us and came back to us because he loves us so much! Jesus continues to live among us because he loves being with us! I suppose he did stand to gain something from dying and rising again: he stood to gain US! He stood to gain our love and trust. And why wouldn’t we give him our love and trust? He only wants to heal us and love us and teach us about the Father. Why wouldn’t we love and trust him?!
Having newness of life and being alive to God means knowing the peace and love of God…knowing it and living into it. Such knowledge may produce long life, maybe not. But it will certainly produce a good life, a life filled with peace and harmony and joy and contentment. What better gift is there than a good life?! Let us give thanks for the good life found in Christ alone. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.