“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:1-3 ESV)
These words written by Paul in the first century serve as a warning to the Christians living in America who have embraced political, philosophical, ethical, and social movements and ideologies which are opposed to the Kingdom of God. Throughout His letter to the church at Rome, Saint Paul stressed the doctrine of salvation by grace. He did this to refute those in the church who claimed that real Christians had to follow the Mosaic Law. Lest he be accused of promoting licentiousness, here he emphatically stated that grace never gives anyone license to sin. Grace does not cancel out our ethical or moral responsibilities to pursue righteousness and do good to all people, even those who we do not like or disagree with us. Grace does not give us license to hate or despise anyone, or to act in a violent manner, or, for that matter, to behave like the world.
In these past months of pandemic and social and political unrest, many Christians seem to have forgotten this. Many have behaved like the rest of the world thinking that it was okay to hurt and denigrate others if it was done in the cause of civil rights. But in God’s Kingdom we have no rights, only blessings and grace which are given to us and which we must share with others. This involves love not hate, mercy not violence, edification not destruction. How are we to do this? We are to live in the blessings of our Baptism. In Baptism we have died to sin. Sin has no power over us, only that which we give it. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can fight against all its attempts to rule and enslave us.
The idea of fighting against sin and temptation should not be foreign to us if we are indeed united with Jesus. If it is, if we do not feel the need or the desire to put up resistance then perhaps we ought to rethink our relationship with Jesus. We should do this if we, like so many of those in our society and culture have already redefined sin to excuse or commend our own (or others) personal lifestyle choices regarding sex, pleasure, money, or material goods. Paul warns us that we cannot have it both ways. Those who give in to sin become enslaved by it. Those so enslaved lose their ability to choose freely. They go along their merry way, thinking they are willingly pursuing their personal lifestyle preferences, that God wants to be happy, He wants them to fulfill their dreams and desires. In fact, are being led around by the nose.
Those who are in Christ are His servants. They no longer live for self but for Him. They live in the Light of His word and walk in His righteousness and walk in His will. Though mercy and forgiveness is always there for believers who sin, we should not deliberately place ourselves into situations or relationships where we will be tempted to sin. The Lord always provides a way to help us walk in righteousness and not fall.