Paul writes in Romans 6:11-14:
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”
Alive to Christ and dead to sin, and yet my life is still full of sin; greed, selfishness, covetness, lust, pettiness, impatience, lack of self-control. If I am dead to sin why is sin so alive in my life? I can’t seem to escape the constant barrage and deluge of sin. It is an ever-present reality that wears me down and chews me up and spits me out.
But it’s not like I am not holy, or at least I try to be, or that I pretend to experience God when I don’t, because I do experience God, I do experience God’s love and presence, I do see God with me in my daily, ordinary life. I do feel love, hear (at times) His voice, and at times taste and smell God’s goodness and mercy and hope and beauty. Most days I know that God is real and that God loves me (and all of us) and His grace and love has changed me (us).
That change though is still ongoing. I am different but not completely different. My sin self is still hanging around, still taunting me, still haunting me, still tempting me, still willing me out of a relationship with God. My old self, as the Bible calls it, is not giving up without a fight, he is still battling for control, and honestly sometimes the old self wins. I lose my battle with my own sin, I feel guilty and ashamed, I beat myself up, I call myself all kinds of names and I lose again. For brief stretches of time I forget my true identity, my true love, my first love. I forget that God is bigger than my sin; I forget that God is a loving and forgiving God. I forget about grace and hope and wallow in my sin and then my thinking turns on me and I think that God is too small to handle my life, to busy to handle my life, or simple that He doesn’t care about me enough to handle my life.
But here is the truth; God does care for us and loves us beyond our wildest imaginations. God does not want us to wallow in our sin and guilt and shame. God wants us to live whole and happy lives full of love and service, full of mission and purpose, full of hope and grace. But grace is no excuse for sin. Grace is that amazing love, that great scandal, that whispers love and forgiveness and reconnection and relationships restored, especially when we don’t deserve it. It is the amazing reminder that God is big enough, is in all honesty too big to comprehend or understand completely.
Scandal, mystery, wonder, awe; these words are my definition of God, or at least part of my definition of God. This is no cop out or wishful thinking or some delusion. It is a response born from many experiences of the divine touching down in my life or at least within sense shot of my life (hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling God in my ordinary life and in those around me). It is a response to those who have come before me and have found the love and grace of God real and present and life changing. It is a response to my contemporaries who live all around me, who I read their books and hear their words and see their lives and know again that God is real and still working and moving in the here and now. It is a response to the Bible, which has comforted me and challenged me; which has left me in awe and wonder and terror and confusion. It is a response to the service that good ordinary people do all over the world and right here in Proctorville to alleviate the hurt and sorrow and suffering and hunger of others. It is a response to God’s healing presence right here, right now. It is a response to the old self, the sin self, that states I am made new in Christ, that I am alive in Christ, that indeed I am again alive in Christ and dead to sin, that I am forgiven and loved, that God loves me beyond my wildest imagination.
This is part of my story, of how I got to where I am in my relationship with God and in my faith and spirituality. But here is the common thread in all of our lives: We are all loved and wanted and forgiven and set free. We are all called to love and be loved to serve and be served, to help and be helped, to give grace and receive grace. You and I, the whole church are the bearers of this good news, so go and tell your story of God and His love!