Buying or Renting the New Life?
For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. Romans 6:19
When my wife and I were first married and considered buying a house, the idea was daunting. Paying something off for thirty years seemed like forever and at that point, I seriously considered renting. Owning and owing nothing didn’t seem so bad to me. We did take the plunge though, buying the house. After we signed the papers, it felt good to go to our house. We spoke of our home. We invited people over to our place. It was ours as far as everyone understood.
We didn’t yet hold the title though. Someone else hung onto that until we could pay it off. The house was ours in practicality, but if we wanted to continue living in it, we had to act like homeowners and make the payments. If we’d have stopped making the payments, we wouldn’t have lived in our house very long.
This analogy helps me to understand Paul’s explanation of our new life in Christ. On the one hand, Paul insists that when we come to faith, we receive this new spiritual life. The life is ours. No one can take it away. To truly enjoy it though, we must choose to live in it. We cannot continue to live in the old life, pursuing its passions, while enjoying the new life.
In the case of buying a home, we spend years paying off the mortgage. As we work at it, the house becomes more and more ours. It’s not a perfect analogy, but this isn’t completely unlike spiritual growth or sanctification. We instantly receive the new spirit life when we come to faith, but we’ll spend the rest of our lives growing and living more and more into that reality. It’s only in daily choosing radical obedience to Christ – even when we don’t feel like it – that the heavenly spirit life is manifested in our daily, earthly existence.
Living in the spirit life means we must undergo the difficult work of crucifying the destructive passions of the old life, which still live in our mortal bodies. At this point, many have remained satisfied with no progress. They believe in the new life, but they never get to the point of living in it. They’re renters, but never owners. So, which are we? Are we renting, never really investing? Or do we daily choose to live in the new life?