5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self  was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free  from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:4-11 (ESV)
“Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Most of this passage talks of the life that we live with Christ in a way that could be interpreted as if this isn’t yet a reality, as if this is something that is off in the future, perhaps something we experience after we die. But then this last verse ties it all together as a present reality.
If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. In a manner of speaking this has already happened, and this is what Paul is getting at. We now walk, as Bo Giertz explains here, in the essence of this new life. We don’t have full enjoyment of it yet, but we do live it now in faith. That is, this reality has been revealed and made manifest to us in baptism, but it is something that is hidden from us in our daily lives. When after we die it will no longer be hidden from us, but made alive to us even in our daily lives. Here we still live with our body of death. Here we do not avoid sin, even if we are able to avoid crass and manifest sins. And well, sin is sin. The depth of sin is a hard one to fathom. It’s hard to see how the sin of lust in our heart which we resist, is just as bad as the sin of adultery that perhaps we have failed to resist at some point in our life. Yet, this is the reality before God, even if from necessity, it isn’t and can’t be the reality of our neighbor’s judgment. Yet we are no longer enslaved to sin.
Enslaved to sin. “A man cannot serve two masters….” Jesus says. It is just as true for Christ and Sin as it is of Mammon and God. This is where we see the personal nature of Sin, not as an abstract proposition, but as a power that rules, a tyrant that whips, flogs and tortures us throughout our daily life. Yes, often he entices us with worldly pleasures, but his enticements tend to breed more of the same. We are no longer his slaves. This is what it means to be dead to sin. He wants us back, but Christ has claim to us. So we are slaves to Christ.
In this world, that doesn’t always seem to be such a great option. It seems to bring greater suffering upon the Christian. On top of that, Christians have a tendency to make this harder than what it should be. This has been the tendency since the fourth century in Christianity. Before then Christians persecuted by the state found their heroes in those who died for the faith. This inspired others to remain true, stay faithful and also die for their faith. But when the persecutions stopped, and Christianity started to become more and more common place, many Christians began to try and find other ways of demonstrating heroics of the faith. True Christians were those like Simon the Stylite. I don’t know what living atop a style has to do with Christianity, but Christian’s revered him for it. This sort of thing led to monasticism etc. Today it manifests itself in political grandstanding, often stupid stunts that do nothing to convey the love of Christ for sinners, but glorify the Christian in the eyes of other Christians. I don’t know. Sometimes I think this sort of thing is driven more by a human desire for worldly fame than it really is out of a Christian love for neighbor. At least, that is a danger I see in much Christian activism. This is often the case with legalism. Legalism isn’t about Christ, it’s about you. This is not what is meant by living in Christ. This sort of thing can happen just as well by those still enslaved to sin.
That we are free from Sin, and no longer slaves to Sin, does not mean we are free of sin. It means that we walk in the newness of life forgiven of our sins, constantly forgiven that we would not fall back into slavery to Sin. But forgiven of our sin, we are freed to forgive, and most of all to forgive the weakness of our brothers and sisters in Christ, they forgive weakness in us too, believe me they do. We are free. We are free in Christ. This freedom manifests itself in this and this alone, we love, and we love by forgiving as we are forgiven. This is what it means to be dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This we are.