One Christmas, there was a relative that was not grateful for anything they were given. This individual had so much going for them. They had a caring family. They were well cared for. They had a good education. They were well fed. They were greatly blessed with many material possessions. This person had received so much. But, for a person who had received so much, they complained about the gift that they were given and said they didn’t want it. Now, one would expect a person to not be impacted by the generosity of someone giving a gift. Nor, would it be expected that a person’s life not be impacted by the the cost of the gift itself.
That is not the reaction we expect from those to whom we give gifts. We expect them to be impacted and touched by the thought of even giving them a gift. We expect them, at the least, to receive the gift and to not reject it. After all, that is the recipient’s role in the cultural practice of giving gifts at Christmas. They are the receiver. They are the person who is to receive and accept what is gifted to them. And, what is gifted to them is expected to be used in the recipient’s life. The gift, we expect, will become part of their life in some way, weather that is clothes, a toy, or a piece of technology.
In Romans 6, Paul describes a similar situation, only he is referring to those who are now in Christ,
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:1-4)
Paul speaks of the great gift of life that has been given to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Discerning the background to Paul’s words, we can discern that Paul is dealing with a crowd that seemingly misunderstands what receiving Christ means. Having received the gift of life from Christ, Paul expounds how Christians have formally received Christ, but are not allowing the gift to impact their lives. Paul expects that those in Christ will gratefully embrace the costly gift that is given to them. And, gratefully embracing Christ’s gift looks like not returning to a life of bondage to sin. Receiving Christ’s gift is not something that we receive, and then leave on the shelf. Rather, it is expected that Christ’s gift will be used in our lives, and become part of our lives. Paul essentially says that, now that we have received Christ, we are to be the people who Christ has now made us to be through his gift.
A couple of years ago, the Denver Broncos dominated the NFL regular season. But, they pretty much had a complete meltdown agains the Seattle Seahawks in the final game at the Superbowl. We didn’t really know the Peyton Manning era Broncos, of that year, as a “bad team.” Rather, they were known throughout the year as a “good team” Nobody expected them to be less than that. But, despite losing the Superbowl that year, they were still one of the low-odd favorites to be in contention for the Superbowl the following season. People expected that Broncos team to continue “being what they were” — a good team.
This is what I understand Paul to be saying in Romans 6:1-4. If we have surrendered to Christ, our identity is now in Christ. Our life is to look like Jesus’ life. It is expected that we no longer live as people enslaved to sin. Rather, it is expected that we use our newly gifted freedom to live in the way of Jesus. We are to be what he has made us to become with the gift he had given us: those living in the life-giving ways of Jesus.
Today, where do you find your self among these words of Paul in Romans? Have you formally received Christ’s gift (immersed into Christ: baptism), but have not fully let it become part of your life? Now that Christ has gifted you with freedom from sin’s control of your life, do you now use that freedom to pursue the life-giving way of Jesus?