I have discovered one of the great benefits of getting old. I can hide my own Easter eggs. Jon-Mical and I were hiding plastic eggs in the house on Thursday, eighteen of them. By the time we finished hiding them I’d forgotten where most of them were. It was a real ego booster to hear a 3 year old say, “Poppy C, remember to look under the pillow on the couch.” He would lead me around to find the last half dozen or so. Then we’d do it all over again. (Or at least I think we did.)
Forgetfulness is not limited to the aging. All of us from time to time forget to return a phone call, forget to do our homework, forget where we put our car keys. We are human. We forget. Sometimes we forget on a spiritual plane as well. We forget to acknowledge the grace of God in our lives. We forget that we are redeemed and forgiven, free from condemnation. And we forget the price of all of that.
Easter is a time of remembering. Once a year we remind ourselves of the passion and suffering of Christ, not because we are some masochistic religion that likes to dwell on pain and agony but because we need to remember. This peace and forgiveness that we enjoy did not come without cost. The promise of life, abundant life, while free to me was incredibly expensive to the Jesus who pleaded in the Garden, “Father, if there is any other way, let this cup pass from me.” When we sit together at a Seder Meal on Thursday, weep in the bleakness of a Good Friday service, it is to remember the ultimate sacrifice that was given so that we might live. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the Risen Lord to remember that He overcame sin, death, and the grave for each one of us. Since I am so forgetful I need to be reminded often. He paid a debt He did not owe so that I might have a life I did not deserve. Now that is some worth remembering.
In some ways, Romans 8 is all about that. From the very first verse Paul repeats over and over again. Old way…death, new way…life. Natural path…death, Spirit path…life. Life in the flesh…death, life in the Spirit…joy and peace. Come on. How many times do you have to tell me? Do you think I would forget something like that? Well, apparently so. Here in verse 13 he says it again, “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” Got it. Wrote it on my hand. Tattooed it on my forehead. I won’t forget that one. Live the old sin way and I will die. Thanks for the reminder.
Then Paul gives us the second half of the equation, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Do you notice a slight turn here? “Put to death the misdeeds of the body.” In the verse before we almost overlooked the phrase, “We have an obligation.” For twelve verses and fifteen weeks we have been talking about grace, freedom from performance, not having to “do something” to earn the love of God, and every bit of that is true.
But now Paul introduces the idea that there is some kind of responsibility on my part, that I do act a certain way and follow some code of behavior. We have an “obligation.” We put to death the “misdeeds,” those things we have been doing wrong. After all of these reminders that His grace is free and we don’t live by the law, this verse and the one before seem to hint at a moral and ethical commitment to a different kind of lifestyle. As one who lives life in the Spirit, not in the flesh, I am called to live differently. Does that go against the “freedom from the law” thing? Not at all.
I believe that God calls me to live a holy and Godly life. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow peace with all men and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” Ephesians 4:1 says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” And later in Romans Paul will say, “Present yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable before God.” Over and over again in Scripture we are confronted with the call to living and acting in a different way because we are Christ followers. But here’s the key, not in order to earn our way into His good graces but as a response to and a reminder of the Spirit life that He has so freely given us.
When I clean up my vocabulary, get rid of some nasty habits, spend time helping the poor and underserved in my world, when I change the way I live, it is not a return to the law. It is a reminder that Christ died for me willingly, saved me freely, and dwells in me gracefully so the least I can do is try to live for Him completely. I remember that every “good and perfect gift” in my life comes from Him and I live accordingly, out of gratitude, not duty.
Paul says, “But if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will have life.” And you will also remember. It’s like living Easter every day, being continually engaged in remembering that His death changed the way we live forever. Too often we get caught between two extremes. On the one side is a legalistic, performance based faith that makes lists of rules, and checks them twice to see if we’ve been naughty or nice, (those are the words from a great old hymn of the church.) The other side is a reaction to that that says we are under no obligation (there’s that word again) and any suggestion of moral responsibility is a return to the “old ways,” life under the law.
Not true says Paul. We are free from the law because of Christ. We live by the Spirit, not by the law. But, as a result of that we make every effort to live pure, holy, Godly lives. It is our loving response to Easter and it helps us remember. Remember what you ask? I’m so glad you did. Next week…we are sons (and daughters) of God.
Until then, have a blessed Easter. And don’t forget where you hid those eggs.