Many Christians are so obsessed with salvation that they forget about sanctification. Paul writes about this in the Epistle lesson, Romans 6:1-11. Apparently some were so taken by God’s grace, that they took God’s mercy for granted. Paul writes “Should we continue to sin in order that grace may abound? By no means!”
Our sins insult God and injure the goodness of God’s creation. When God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1-2:4), after each day’s work God affirmed the goodness of creation. “And it was good,” God says over and over again. And the Bible affirms repeatedly, “And it was so.”
This good world is marred by our sinfulness. But thanks be to God, the most we can do in our sins is put a smudge on its goodness, a little tarnish on the silver as it were. We cannot make this good world bad.
So, we don’t live a good life in order to get through the pearly gates. That’s been taken care of already through the mercy, grace and loving-kindess of our Savior. Instead, we live a good life out of gratitude for the gift we have already received in baptism.
Paul continues “Don’t you know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Our baptism liberates us from carrying the weight of our sins. We are, as the hymn puts it, “forgiven, loved and free.” Paul writes “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
With Christ dwelling in us and we in Him, and with our sins left behind after baptism, we are free to live abundant lives, invited to participate in God’s ministry as partners with our Lord. We do not want to burden God’s mercy and grace with additional sins, because we want to live lives that are pleasing to God. We want to assist God in removing the tarnish from the goodness of creation. We, like Abraham, want to be people through whom the whole world is blessed.
What tremendous good news this is. Instead of guilt being the “stock in trade” for the church in order to make people feel guilty, liberation is our focus. Instead of condemning others, our focus should be on building them up, encouraging us all to lead better lives. Instead of climbing on the backs of others in order to get ahead, our focus needs to be on extending them a helping hand.
In that way, we help polish the human tarnish off of the goodness of creation. In that way, we help God clean the smudges off this good world. And in that way, we can help God’s grace abound as our focus changes from using people and loving things to loving people and using things.