One of the most difficult passages for me to preach has been Romans 6v1-11. I find it difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain. The difficulty is summed up in verse 11: “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” How do you explain that? Especially when it seems so contrary to our Christian experience.
Well, believe it or not, I think a journalist has just shed some light on this for me. Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project quotes David Dunning’s book, Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself. Dunning said:
[People] can argue anything. If asked to argue that some assertion “A” is true, people can do that. If next asked to argue that the opposite of “A” is true, they can do that, too, often with the exact same ease and effectiveness…When testing a hypothesis, people tend to emphasize evidence that confirms the hypothesis over information that disconfirms it.
Rubin comments: I’ve been applying that observation as a happiness-project strategy, and it’s astonishingly effective.
When I catch myself thinking, “My husband isn’t very thoughtful,” and my mind starts kicking up examples of thoughtlessness, I retort, “My husband is very thoughtful” – and sure enough, I think of lots of examples of thoughtful behavior. When I think “My daughters squabble a lot,” I answer, “My daughters get along very well.” I can actually feel my opinion shift. It’s almost uncanny.
If I make positive statements, I’ll tend to convince myself and other people of a positive view of things. If I make negative statements, I’ll do just the opposite. For example, if I say, “Wow, that was such a great meeting,” people are prompted to think that the meeting went well. If I say, “Wow, that meeting was such a drag,” people are prompted to think along those lines.
As Goethe observed: “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.”
So, I’ve decided that the more I regard myself as dead to sin, the more dead to sin I will be. And the more I think of myself as alive to Christ, the more alive to Christ I will be. The next time I am tempted to sin, I will say, “No! I can’t because I’m dead to sin, and alive to Christ!” Thus I will die to sin and live to Christ.
It’s worth a try, isn’t it?
PS. Please don’t turn this monopod into a centipede. Monopod = the way we think about ourselves will impact our behavior. Centipede = I also believe that everything’s relative!
Picture: 2006 © Leonid Nyshko. Image from BigStockPhoto.com