Romans 8:12-17 (NRSV)
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Everything about our culture is predicated upon the avoidance of pain, suffering and discomfort. Consequently, the Church’s greatest temptation is a logic of cheap grace which suggests we can experience resurrection without having to endure co-crucifixion. Here Paul explicitly debunks this fallacy, by explaining the role and work of the Spirit. The Spirit is active within believing communities, working to affect a kind of death experience, both within the Church, and us, individually. The Spirit is the power of God dwelling within us, acting to conquer, nullify, and replace the power of “the flesh,” which is dictated by sin (Rom 7: 17 & 20). Life in the flesh can easily, swiftly, and unconsciously become life according to the flesh—leading to re-enslavement to our fleshly nature; which ultimately breeds self-centeredness, sin and death. However, through the two “if” statements (verses 13 and 17), we see how the Spirit links us to the cross of Christ, and thus his suffering and ethic of self-giving love for others.
Lord, may your Spirit crucify our fleshly nature and cultivate life.