- The Explore the Bible lesson for April 5 focuses on Romans 6:1-14.
A friend recently posted on his social network page he was feeling guilty about his plans not to attend church that coming Sunday.
When church leaders decided to cancel public worship that Sunday out of an abundance of caution related to the spread of the coronavirus, my friend was relieved. There was no need to feel guilty over not attending worship. Then he was overwhelmed with guilt for not feeling guilty for not attending a worship service that wasn’t even going to happen.
In my attempt to console him, I suggested we Baptists will always find a way to double-guilt ourselves, guilt upon guilt, especially when guilt is not appropriate. Perhaps we all wonder if we ever will feel free from guilt.
Of course, we say we believe in the forgiveness of God in Christ. It’s just that, though we claim freedom from sin, the odor of it seems to linger in our lives in the form of the toxic fumes of unresolved guilt over sins God already has forgiven.
In my own experience as a pastor, a chaplain and a writer, I’ve found it much easier to extend the assurance of God’s grace while, at the same time, finding it so very, very difficult to extend a little grace to myself. Why is it that, in our eyes, our sins always loom larger or worse or more unforgivable than the sins of others?
Light shining in the darkness
The depths of this lesson’s text have yet to be fully explored. Walking through this passage might recall to some the experience of walking into Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Though first discovered in 1898, new discoveries still are being made and there still are many places where man’s foot never has stepped.
On a simple level, vv. 1-4 speak of something that is not in and of itself visible to the human eye. But in the lives of Jesus’ disciples, it should become quite visible on a very human level. When we chose to allow Christ’s life into ours, the Eternal Light that is Christ transformed us within so that Christ’s Light shows through us to others.
It’s almost like what a young couple experiences at the birth of their first child. In the twinkling of an eye, their priorities are reordered. The questions about how they will their spend money are answered. Every transaction is viewed in terms of what impact that expenditure will have on the life of their child, the new life that has come to live with them. In some garages, golf clubs once used every weekend suddenly gather dust in a dark corner so dad can play with his son.
The question Paul asks, “Should we continue in sin?” becomes rhetorical. We serve a new master, which is not what we want or desire most for ourselves but is instead governed by the same grace that saved us. What is the most God-honoring, God-loving way I can live this day?
Free and responsible
The answer to that question, expressed in vv. 1-4, is reinforced in vv. 12-14. We are no longer our own, (the assumption of which is the root of all sin) or the world’s (the sinful allowance of which is the DNA of man’s self-centered brutality to man).
Neither do we live as though we are trapped in a moral straitjacket (the presumption of which leads to inappropriate guilt and religious practices rooted in legalism). Instead, we live as people free and responsible to engage our worlds out of the empowerment of God’s grace in Christ, and therefore in us. This truth is further expanded upon beginning in Chapter 6.
Sadly, too many have passed these two mind-boggling and beautiful chapters because they are too deep to explore, giving them only a tip-of-the-hat study. Yet, they are essential to our coming to terms with the fact that when we “serve” for any reason other than as the only legitimate response to grace, whatever we are doing is legalistic and for some reason other than true service to Christ.
Sandwiched between vv. 1-4 and vv. 12-14 are the wonderful, soul-transforming words recorded in vv. 5-11. They declare some of the most foundational truths of the Christian faith. It can get tricky navigating these verses but only if we ever stop exploring them as our lives unfold before us.
Paul’s words, now our Scripture, tell us our hope—our very eternity—is rooted in what has happened to Christ and all those who accept God’s grace as our new roadmap for life. We will still sin. We simply won’t set our moral compass using our wants and wishes as the center of the universe. God’s grace continually showers us with merciful forgiveness as we go along.
This one truth, lived out, will forever transform the way we love God and teach us to love God. It will, in the meantime, continually, day by day, transform the way we relate to others.
We will live lives increasingly free of sin and the guilt of sin long ago forgiven on the cross. And, we will be vessels of Eternal Light pointing other to the cross, the empty tomb and our eternal lives beyond.
Free at last, free at last …
Glen Schmucker is a writer and blogger in Fort Worth. He has served as a Texas Baptist pastor and as a hospice chaplain.