Starting Life Dead

"We never become really and genuinely our entire and honest selves until we are dead -- and not then until we have been dead years and years. People ought to start dead and then they would be honest so much earlier." 
-Mark Twain

Twain was on to something here.  Throughout our lifetimes we tend to try to cover up who we really are.  We put up fronts.  We play the part expected of us.  We struggle to be genuine for fear of offending someone, giving them a reason to dislike us, or sometimes just because it is the path of least resistance.

Then, after death, we can no longer control our reputation, we can no longer manage people.  Death does away with trying to win the approval of other people.  Often, its not until after a person has died that we truly find out about that person, through their diary, e-mail correspondences, or other things that have been left behind. 

But what if we could start off life, as Twain suggests, dead?  What if our identity wasn't bound up in the expectations of others?  What if we could live life in a genuine and honest way? can.  

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 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. 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. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 6:4-11 ESV)
In Holy Baptism we actually receive the wonderful gift of death; that is to say, the death of our old self.  Our identity is no longer bound up in our sinful nature with its sinful desires.  It is no longer bound up in needing approval of others.

Our identity is now found in Christ.  Our approval is now given by God, so who cares what others say?

But, as Twain noted, only after years and years of being dead can we truly be our genuine selves.  He was right again.  Every day we must die again to the old sinful self and rise to the new life we've been given in Christ.  Every day we must drown that old sinful self with its false expectations and its need to have to approval of others so that we can life life from our death, knowing that our identity is truly found in Christ and the approval of God the Father that we have because of Jesus.

This is precisely what Martin Luther was describing when he wrote in the Small Catechism,
(Baptizing with water) indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

In my ministry I have met some of the most genuine, honesty, and amazing people imaginable.  They tend to be old veterans of the faith who have spent a lifetime doing exactly what has been described here; daily dying to the sinful self and rising to live out their true identity as children of God.  They have learned to life as people liberated through death, the death of Christ and the death of their old sinful self, and to live already as people of the resurrection.

How liberating it is to start life dead and live life in light of that death.  


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