In a few weeks, we shall once more roar forth the glorious hymns of Easter. In some churches, preachers will predictably treat Jesus’ resurrection as a quaint belief in need of reinterpretation, while the rest of us are more likely to focus on the evidence for its historical reality. But at Easter we often neglect a prominent idea in the thought of the apostle Paul: the Resurrection as a force for moral change.

The key passage is Romans 6: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead …, we too might walk in newness of life.… We know that our old self was crucified with him so that … we might no longer be enslaved to sin.”

Paul knew only too well the fact of believers’ sins. But for him, the Christian’s identification with Christ simply rendered that behavior incomprehensible.

In Romans 6, the issue is loyalty. Modern consciousness is saturated with a philosophy of individual autonomy. In the heady air of the American frontier, that philosophy blossomed into the myth of the solitary hero. Even our social programs and educational philosophies aim at increasing individual independence. But the Bible never celebrates personal autonomy. People are always in relationship—to God, to family, to the needy, to the covenant people. Human existence is a web of obligation. Thus, for Paul, persons are always servants. Freedom is from the tyranny of sin, but never from having a master. To continue to live in sin, after having been morally resurrected, is disloyalty—living out the wrong obligations to the wrong master. One key to better Christian behavior is found in realizing and living out our true loyalty.

Although this demands sacrifice, it is not without its reward, for, as Paul concludes his reflection on the moral meaning of the resurrection, “Sin pays its wages: death; but God gives a free gift: eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The resurrection thus gives us the ability to see beyond the missed payoffs of this world to eternal life with God. This Easter, may our resurrection consciousness outlast the final echoes of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and find its expression in our renewed allegiance to the one who raised Jesus from the dead.

By David Neff.

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