Not long ago I came across a blogger who wrote that he didn’t agree with the Church’s moral teachings, but he was going to stick with the Church anyway. He was raised in the Church, and why should he be the one to leave, just because others in the Church have hateful attitudes? Besides, Jesus accepted people as they were. I commented that Jesus accepted people as they were, but for the purpose of bringing them to repentance.
I was reminded of this exchange this past Sunday, when the Epistle for the traditional Latin Mass was Romans 6:3-11:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that 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 so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 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.”
Does this not preclude the notion that Jesus accepts us as we are? Maybe he accepts us as we are initially. As he said, he came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. (Mk. 2:17.) But once we sinners are called, what then? Will he not heal us of our sickness?
According to this reading, baptism, the very sacrament of initiation into the Church, entails leaving our sinful past behind. Indeed it’s even more than that: Our old self is crucified, the sinful body is destroyed, that we may no longer be enslaved to sin. Strong language! Becoming a Christian means no less than dying to sin once for all, that we might live to God in Christ Jesus. This “newness of life” is what saves us and enables us to live eternally.
Can one call himself a follower of Jesus, who has not died to sin that he might live to God in Christ Jesus? Is this not essential to being a Christian? Is there a Plan B for those who don’t wish to take their Christianity so far as all that?