Dying…

I remember writing the article below. I don’t know if it was for my old blog or if it was a bulletin article… Or at some point, both.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian famous for his stand against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. His beliefs and convictions ultimately cost him his life in a Nazi concentration camp.

While we might differ with him on a number of theological issues, he does have some interesting things to say about God and the role of the church today. One particular quote that has been ascribed to him is enough to give one significant pause:

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”

Mr. Bonhoeffer managed to encapsulate Romans 6 in a very concise way. The call of Jesus Christ has never been to join a religion. The plea has never been to accept a certain package of beliefs and espouse them. The message has never been about the lack of passion or the rote ceremony that has often characterized mankind’s approach to God.

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It’s not about changing an area or two of our lives. Instead, it’s all about death and dying. No amount of fixing and repairing can ever restore men. We are beyond fixing.

I think that’s what makes this so hard for us to accept. We are fixers and if it’s broke, we want to fix it. We want to change it. We want to do what we can do to solve the problem. But it has never been about our own ability or desire. However, it is about God killing the old man and bringing a brand new one back to life.

Take the time to read Romans 6:1-7.

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

It is one thing to submit to the imagery of baptism, to accept the teaching of scripture, to be immersed in water and to immerse our individual lives in the life of the church. Yes, it is one thing to do those things and yet quite another to truly submit ourselves to the death that Jesus offers: the killing of the old and the raising of the new.

Too often, we want the blessings of rebirth without all of the consequences of dying. We want the privilege of relationship without the sacrificing of the things that hinder relationship between men and God. We want the comfort and security of “church” without ever really accepting and paying the real price we must pay.

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Can you and the world see a clear indication of your death by the priorities you choose, by the friends you keep, by the values you profess, by the life you live? Have you really died yet?

I have preached and taught the New Testament concept of dying to sin, dying to self, and the rebirth of being immersed into Christ. I still believe that.

I just never quite got it like I do now. Dying is a hard business, especially when we keep resurrecting that which has supposedly died.

What I am learning is simple if not revolutionary: dying is a continual process. Just because I died to something yesterday doesn’t mean I won’t die to it or something entirely different tomorrow.

My relationship with God has been shaken to its foundation. And then some. But, religiously, relationally, I am beginning to experience a new kind of freedom.

While I still desperately want to believe (trust), I am grateful for the opportunities before me…

Les Ferguson, Jr.