Today’s author is Prince of Peace member, Paul Sponheim.

Throughout these devotions on Romans 6, I have so far failed to note explicitly the connectedness of the Cross and the Resurrection. It cries out for recognition in the last line of verse five: 

Photo by eberhar grossgasteiger on Unsplash

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

The word “certainly” stands out for me. But couldn’t one affirm, say, the cross without affirming the resurrection? The connection between cross and resurrection is so strong and/or clear for Paul that he chooses “certainly” as his adverb concerning the connection.

But in our practice of the faith, in our eagerness to stress the miracle of resurrection, we can slide into a triumphalism that forgets the horror of the cross. It’s hard also to remember in Golgotha the genuinely triumphant reality of the man from Nazareth, who will see this drama through to the end, his end.  It is hard to know what to make of the dying man’s outcry about God-forsakenness. It helps some that his last words were “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Would that every believer’s lament echo that resolve. Visually, it helps that Easter morning dawns with an altar stripped bare on Friday. I find it confusing when Easter Eve services begin with the call and response of “he is risen”.Good Friday and the whole of Life surely recognize that Evil struck a decisive blow in the crucifixion, but it is not a time to wallow in despair. Or to celebrate self-denigration. Those despairing ones walking the road to Emmaus did recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

Getting the relationship between cross and resurrection right requires some care in formulation. We are getting it wrong if we assume that more sin automatically turns on some spigot of grace more forcefully. Like Jesus, We are to “live to God” (vv.10-11). This being alive to God is “in Christ Jesus” (v. 11). I find helpful the idea that the resurrection of Jesus created a powerful moral force for the ongoing battle against evil. Christ in us is the basis of our hope for glory (Col. 1:27). Our basic outlook on ourselves gets involved here.

It is literally imperative that we “consider” ourselves as belonging to God (v 11). Are we seeking perfection in this new life? I think that term is dangerous psychologically, for despair awaits every failure, Moreover, if the Creator of all things is creating still, perfection’s aura of completion is unhelpful.

But Paul does call us to let sin have “no dominion” (v 12). I have lost two family members to addiction in the last ten years so I can understand the threat of bondage.  Doesn’t Sin(singular) or certain sins (plural) seem to rise up with addictive power in our lives? While it is terribly important to emphasize the medical dimension of addiction, should we not let Paul’s imperative into the conversation as well? Paul goes on to speak of a deep conflict within us. Moreover, is there any  member of Prince of Peace who could not claim as their own Paul’s powerful formulation in the next chapter: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom. 7:19).                                    

The point of the passage, of course, is to help the person who would follow Jesus claim the power to change. We speak of wholism as an approach that sees the connectedness of all things. Cross and resurrection are theological resources offering themselves for a holistic vision. When I was with The Domestic Abuse Project in Minneapolis I recall staff stressing that it was vitally important to act early in the bell curve of freedom. The cross and death are full-bodied realities crying out for inclusion. The resurrection and the newness of life are that as well. So, our faith, working in, with, and under other healing resources, gives us realistic hope.