5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11)
On Easter, of all days, I was thinking about baptism (and not because it was apparently a practice within some ancient churches to culminate a lengthy period of catechesis [Christian teaching] with Easter baptisms), chiefly because this remarkable passage loomed in my mind.*
Finding myself falling into--nay, willfully stepping into--into old patterns of sin in my life that have come back with a vengeance (Is this a Die Hard movie?), it suddenly clicked: The life of Jesus that is manifest in each one of us is his resurrection life, a life that is now lived after death. We are initiated into the eschatological glory of the risen Jesus through the death and rising of our baptism that joins us to him (Romans 6:4, 8-9). But the process of our transformation into his glory also involves earthly sanctification, what the apostle Paul calls "Christ . . . formed in you" (Galatians 4:19). This process of sharing in his glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) is not separate from the glory of the risen Lord. Rather, it is precisely his resurrection that makes all the difference--for resurrection can only happen when there has been a death.The raw reality is that if I want the life of Christ to be formed in me at any given point of my life--hospitality, sexuality, stewardship of my finances and gifts, relationships with family and friends, whatever--it is going to be the life of his resurrection. And therefore there must be putting to death of my old ways. Like a Norse funeral, they need to be bound to a ship, set aflame, and sailed off into the distance, ne'er to return.
Of course, the problem is that "nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" (Romans 7:18), and I will continually sin. Life is a battle of continually putting to death my sin through confessing it not only to God (the easy part), but also to brothers (the hard part), and through repenting of my old ways, stepping out of them and onto new paths, "that we might walk in newness of life."
*Props to Peter Leithart for these insightful words regarding Romans 6.