Text: Romans 6: 1-11
Sin Boldly, my friends!
I can just imagine the commercial now… the most interesting theologian in the world! Sin Boldy, my friends! One of Luther’s most famous quotes, has understandably become one of his most frequent misquotes.
After Luther said “Sin boldly”, most people stopped listening and took the imperative for what they hoped it was. Today, as you can see from my Pint Glass here with the words “Sin Boldly” printed on it, this misinterpreted Luther quote has been most frequently interpreted in jest (hopefully) as a blanket permission for debauchery. Right from the mouth of Luther… “Sin Boldly, my friends.”
Human proclivity toward sin was a problem for Paul in the first century the same as it was for Luther speaking to Germans in the 16th century, the same as it is for us today in the 21st century. Sin is fact. Sin is universal. Sin is pervasive. Sin is why we need a Savior.
Paul said just a few chapters before our reading for this evening in Romans “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All have sinned….
But it seems so often in our feel-good culture today that we don’t like to talk about sin, we don’t like to acknowledge that we all engage in sin, and we certainly don’t want to do anything about our sin –because that would be an acknowledgment that we do it in the first place!
Paul isn’t just talking about sins that individuals commit in this 6th chapter of Romans, but he’s talking about the the power of Sin that holds us captive from which we cannot free ourselves. The power of Sin is manifest in empire and permeates the predominant culture as it encourages our individual sins.
One example from our culture of how Sin corrupts our lives and relationships is the quest for self-superiority. We strive daily to make ourselves look good, preferably better than those around us. Our culture fills us with pride and tells us that we must “be the best”, “rise to the top” “climb that corporate ladder and not care about whose toes were stepped on in the process.” This sin of self-superiority comes out in all sorts of ways, from wrinkle cream to keeping up with the Joneses to failing to take responsibility for our own actions to failing to ask forgiveness for our mistakes. Everything has to be perfect. We must be the best. We must have all the answers. We must continue believing that we are in control.
Paul says “Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” In other words, does God need us to be really bad sinners so that God can shower us with more and more grace? Of course not! God isn’t gracious BECAUSE we are sinful, God is gracious AND we are sinful. Through our Baptism into Christ’s death, we sinners are also saints. At the point of Baptism, we sinners passed from death into new life. Whether you were an infant, a teenager, or an adult when you were Baptized, you were crucified with Christ and dragged from Christ’s death into Christ’s resurrection. The power of Sin that appears so dominant in the world and in our culture today does not have the final victory over you, because you are a child of God. Today, Paul calls us to leave the power of Sin behind and to walk in the newness of life which we received as our inheritance at Baptism.
Paul asks the question that I’m sure has frustrated many of us at one point of another “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” He calls the church in Rome and us today back to honest discipleship. It’s time to get real with ourselves about our sin. It’s time to acknowledge that we DO in fact sin daily. It’s time to acknowledge that each one of us feels the seductive tug of something that damages our bodies, relationships, or identities. On the cross, Christ defeated the power of Sin in this world, and at your Baptism, he made that real for you as he raised you above the power of Sin and into new life.
In her book, “Carry on, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life,” Momastery blogger Glennon Melton illustrates this kind of transformation. Glennon was sitting at the playground one day with an acquaintance while they watched their children play. She drove a nice car, had a nice house, always dressed pristinely, was active in the PTA and at church, she was obsessed with making people believe that she had the perfect life. She was terrified that people would see through her mask and really KNOW her, warts, skeletons in her closet and all. Glennon says that she was sitting next to her acquaintance at the playground while they watched their kids and it was clear that this other person from her church was suffering inside, scared to share her secret pain because then others would know that her life was not as perfect as it seemed. Glennon said that they’d each built up so many layers of self-superiority around themselves with their fancy cars and I-phones and PTA meetings that it was impossible for the two of them to really connect. Her friend was suffering, but the suffering was stuck inside, scared to allow honest human contact to transform her experience. Glennon decided it was time to go into this battle for her friend’s life NAKED. She shared her story with this acquaintance on the playground. She shared that she never intended to be a mom. She was a perfectly discontented bulimic, alcoholic, drug addict when she found herself to be pregnant by someone she’d only been dating a few months. They got married and built a life together, she found the Jesus who had always been chasing her, she became a writer, and the rest is history. Her acquaintance, Tess, dropped her mouth to the floor and was silent for a few moments. Then, she opened up. She shared with Glennon about how her marriage was falling apart. Their life was not as superior as it seemed. Everyone’s armor fell to the ground.
This experience of using her pain to help someone else open up transformed Glennon’s direction in life. She’d been searching for where God was leading her, and she discovered that God was leading her to take up the vocation of “wreckless truth-teller.” Instead of striving for the rest of her life to hide her sins –and they were many and they were serious- she found newness of life when she rejected the idol of “keeping up appearances” and began being honest with the world about where she’d been and how Christ had transformed her from the walking dead to the Baptized and Set Free!
Christ defeated the power of Sin over our world and lives once and for all on the cross and raises us with him to newness of life each day. Christ nails the entirety of our sin to the cross each day and raises us with him in remembrance of the promise God made to us each when we were marked with that cross forever.
At Baptism, our sins were forgiven forever. Each day, Baptized and set free, we die to the part of ourselves that sins and rise into the new life Jesus freely offers us. Every single day, as we remember our true identities as beloved children of God, we step out of the tombs of our old sin and into the sunshine and hope of the resurrection dawn. In Christ, we are transformed, and we are enabled by God to live together in newness of life.
In Christ we are free to reject the power that sin has over our society and choose to live in Christ’s life and love. We are free to reject the ways our society teaches us to hate others, seek vengeance, hold grudges, and refuse to help those in need. In Christ we are free to live and love like Jesus, and in so doing to turn our community and the world upside down.
“Sin boldly” was not the end of Luther’s famously misinterpreted quote. He said “Sin boldly, but believe more boldly still!”
Believe more boldly.
Believe that you are beloved by God.
Believe that God sees you, sinner that you are, as a parent sees their precious child.
Believe that God’s grace and mercy are boundless and restriction-free. We serve a “no-strings-attached” God!
Believe that in Christ, you are a new creation.
Believe that you ARE forgiven all your sins. Since the time you were Baptized and every single time you share in this feast of love at the altar, you receive the fullness of Christ and the newness of life, forgiveness of sins, and salvation that he freely offers to you today and every day as you die and rise anew in Him. Amen.