Monday 27 May 2019

Embodied Grace

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 any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 6:11-14

Later on in this letter, Paul will move from the mercies we’ve received from God to the giving of our bodies as a living sacrifice (12:1). He anticipates that move here, using the same language of ‘offering’.

It’s bound up with the flow of the gospel, God’s work of salvation in Christ through his Spirit. Paul wants us to know that our obedience to the first Adam is now gone. We no longer need to be enslaved to the way of life which went with that allegiance, ‘for we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin’ (6:6). We have died and risen again in Christ. What is true of him is true of us, however much we might be tempted to think otherwise.

Since salvation involves a recovery of what it means to be truly human, it should come as no surprise that the body is bound up with that restoration. God has saved us – the whole of us. And ‘every part’ of us is offered back to him – hands, feet, eyes, ears, tongue, mouth, and brain. All that we are is put at the disposal of our new master.

It’s tempting to think that God’s interest in our bodies is solely restrictive, that God would want to limit our freedom of movement, slap ‘thou shalt not’ post-it notes on every pleasurable activity. And yes, there is a real challenge to note about ears that too quickly listen to the office gossip, eyes that are too easily drawn to images that are titillating at best and degrading at worst, tongues that too hastily put others down, hands that too readily get attached to smart phones and shut out our presence with family members.

But we live in an era of grace, Paul tells us, and we’re able to show a different way of living that flows from God’s generosity towards us. And we do so as embodied people, who have a particular family history, who talk a particular way, who occupy particular places in work and home and church. By God’s design, we live in a world of things we can see and hear, smell and taste. Watch out for the good ones today, and celebrate them as gifts from a gracious God.

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