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Becoming Just — Dying to Sin

Theologian F. Leron Shults writes:

The justice (or law) of God is fulfilled by love, as both Jesus and Paul insist (Matt. 22:36-40; cf. Mark 12:28-34; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5;14; cf. James 2:8). Becoming just therefore involves becoming an agent who manifests love. Finite agents do not have the power to fulfill this law of love, and so becoming just ultimately depends on the grace of God, who calls us to share in divine love by following in the way of Christ in the power of the Spirit. Our moral desire is only conformed to Jesus’ way of relating to the Good as we “die to sin” and are “crucified” to the world, no longer relying on our own power to secure the objects of our desire but actively resting in the omnipotent consoling agency of absolute Love. There are no shortcuts to developing a virtuous disposition; it requires the painful process of introspection and working out one’s redemptive agency in community. This too occurs by the gracious agency of the Holy Spirit as Christ is formed in us (cf. Gal. 4:19).

— F. LeRon Shults & Steven J. Sandage, Transforming Spirituality: Integrating Theology and Psychology, pp. 114, 115.

The process of Christian redemption is a process of being re-made in the image of Christ. The great irony of this transformation, is that we are being progressively transformed into the image for which we are created.

Sin is a distortion. It is a dysfunction.

We were created to be people who live out justice and love. Christ comes into the world to re-awaken that desire and to fulfill it within us.

It is not simply a process of moral renovation. In fact, I feel it is not even best thought of in those terms. It is a process of being transformed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. We offer ourselves to God. God offers God’s-self to us.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV)

It is life — and yet it is crucifixion. I think this is one of the most difficult aspects of the spiritual life to communicate. Life in Christ means death to sin. Or, we sometimes go further and say: death to self. This seems so negative, and far too passive. But, Christ teaches us that in letting go of ourselves we find our true selves. We take up our cross — yes, but it is in the interests of finding the new life Christ offers through the Spirit.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24 NIV)

This is the entryway into the life of justice and love.

And, it is not a passive state, it is an active seeking. It is transformation into the very people God created us to be.

I always find this difficult to communicate: yet, it is very real.

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