Forgiveness -- Part 2 / by Michael Nichols

The nitty-gritty of Romans truly starts in Chapter 6, where Paul poses a few very interesting questions:

  • "[If more grace comes to those who have been in more sin,] shall we continue sinning so that grace may increase?"
  • "Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?"
  • "[If the law makes us aware of sin to the extent that we give into sin,] is the law sinful?"
  • "[If that giving into sin bring us death when the law was meant for life,] did that which is good, then, become death to [him]?"

Now, I'm neither a theologian nor a Bible scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just some guy reading this and seeing certain things pop out at me. I don't know much about the structure of the Roman church, or anything about where it went from there. I do, however, know that Paul seems to be throwing out a ton of questions to them, which leads me to ask, "Why? Were these questions relevant to them in some way?"

These questions seem to have a sort of progression, a sequence of figuring out how this "grace" thing actually works. Humor me for just a moment. If you were figuring out that there was a way to escape the threat of death, would you take it? I mean, it's really a rhetorical question, if you think about it. Of course you would. The whole premise of sin is that it brings destruction wherever it goes. The victims hurt, and eventually, that hurt ripples back to the criminal, even if it takes a long time. In answering that first question of whether we should continue sinning to bring about more grace, he answered, and I paraphrase this, basically, "Heck to the no," explaining to his audience that when they were baptized, it was a way of showing that they had died to sin. How does someone who is dead continue living in the body he was in? Is it even possible? He explains that we are not under the law, but under grace, which is when he asks his second question (see list), and swiftly says, "No way!" yet again! He comes back to drive the that, not only are dead to sin, but that sin itself is a murderer, and ends up killing us anyway, so why should we be a slave to it? We are now free to live, unafraid of what sin once did to us because it no longer had a hold on us, but we have a hold on it through Jesus!

Then, it gets even weirder. So the law was made to show us what is good, right? But in doing so, the law also shows us what is wrong, everything we should do... and that's when we start to question it. Our failure to believe in our own inevitable demise gives us the wiggle room to chase things we shouldn't. We don't like to believe in limitations. We like to think that we can handle anything and everything life throws at us, and that was true before the fall because we had it made. We weren't alone, separated from each other and God. Everything was unified, unbroken, complete. God rested from His work because it was done. He didn't need to do anything else in the slightest. It was over. Then, when we were told to avert death by not eating the "forbidden fruit," that was when sin crept in through Satan in the serpent -- wow, that's some alliteration for ya. In the same way, temptations creep into our thoughts daily. We imagine passing boundaries that aren't ours to cross. So it isn't really the law itself that is evil, but it is our own nature of pushing the envelope that brings us to places of hurt and loss.

That is the whole purpose of death to sin. If we choose to die to it, we then cannot die from it. It's not like we have no choice. That was the whole purpose of Jesus' death and resurrection, and also what makes the aforementioned imagery of baptism (buried with Christ, raised to new life) so vivid. Because of that, we now have a choice. We are no longer slaves! We have been liberated! The door is open wide to run through, but He's not going to drag us through it. Light always shines from a distance. It has to radiate in order to get to where it's going. Light can lead, but it is not in it's nature to forcefully pull things to itself (which is why this isn't a perfect analogy, because God DOES pull us to Him, but not in a forced way).

So the point of forgiveness (grace) isn't really to ignore the past or that the nature of sin itself is to tear things apart or to place blame on the law, which is what I inferred from how Paul spoke to the Romans. The point is not to ignore it, but to kill it when we die to ourselves and are resurrected by the power of Jesus' resurrection -- it's a chance to leave the past behind and start fresh, and that chance is always there for all of us.

The parasite we call sin can only feed on the living flesh, but the resurrection we receive here on earth, unlike the one to come, is one in the Spirit. That's where the war begins. I'll talk about in PART 3.

In the mean time, watch this video by Meredith Andrews!