No longer "married" to sin
I like when we come across illustrations in scripture which help us "cement" an idea into our minds and get it worked deep into our spirits. One such illustration is found in today's passage - comparing marriage, becoming a widow, and then remarriage to this idea of being "free" to enjoy life in a new way. Let's break this down a little. Laws have power over people who are alive. In today's culture, marriage is a little more "disposable" than it was in the time Paul penned these words to the Roman church. I think we can understand the concepts taught if we understand the time in which they were written. Marriage was between one man and one woman - a life-long commitment to remain faithful to one another. This is where we get this idea of "till death do us part" in our modern day marriage ceremonies. If a marriage ended in one spouse passing away, the remaining spouse was no longer "under the obligation" of marriage to his/her first spouse. The death separated them from this obligation to remain "faithful". They were free to take another spouse. It would not be viewed as "adultery" - the "conditions" of marriage no longer existed at the point of death. This might seem a little "contractual" to us at first, but it is kind of those contractual terms which are being used here to illustrate the difference between being in a relationship with sin and then having this relationship severed because of the death of sin in our lives. When sin is dead, we are no longer under "obligation" to sin's relationship - we are free to pursue another!
My friends, you surely understand enough about law to know that laws only have power over people who are alive. For example, the Law says that a man’s wife must remain his wife as long as he lives. But once her husband is dead, she is free to marry someone else. However, if she goes off with another man while her husband is still alive, she is said to be unfaithful. That is how it is with you, my friends. You are now part of the body of Christ and are dead to the power of the Law. You are free to belong to Christ, who was raised to life so that we could serve God. When we thought only of ourselves, the Law made us have sinful desires. It made every part of our bodies into slaves who are doomed to die. But the Law no longer rules over us. We are like dead people, and it cannot have any power over us. Now we can serve God in a new way by obeying his Spirit, and not in the old way by obeying the written Law. (Romans 7:1-6 CEV)
We are entering into a new relationship with Christ at the point of our saying "yes" to him, much in the same way the widow would enter into a new relationship with her new spouse when she accepts his hand in marriage. While she is in relationship with the first spouse, she is not free to pursue any other relationship than that which she has committed to with her first spouse. When we were committed to sin in our lives, living for ourselves and apart from God, we could not pursue any other relationship but this one. It was our primary focus and purpose in life, much in the same way a spouse commits to the relationship of marriage. Two become one - no longer seeking others, but committing to just one. Pair up with sin and this is who your "bed partner" is until that relationship ends up in death to sin! Yet, once sin is dead, by the power of the cross in your life, you are free to pursue the relationship of a lifetime! You are free to pursue Christ with all your passion and purpose.
Life may not have been all "rosy" in the first relationship and you bring a lot of baggage into the second, but here is the good news - that baggage can be unpacked and the bags can be discarded because of the loving concern our new "spouse" has for us! When we come to Christ, he doesn't want us keeping steamer trunks full of hidden hurts and wrong choices hidden away in the attic. He doesn't want us burying emotions left raw by the things we faced when we were enthralled in relationship with sin in our lives. He wants those out in the open - so he can embrace them, heal them, and create new experiences for us to replace those emotions left raw by the former relationship we had pursued with such passion.
I have no greater hope than to be set free from sin and to live for another. I know you have no greater hope, either. There is but one relationship which matters - that which comes when the former is dead and we are left wide open to pursue the one which Christ offers to us. We are no longer under obligation to the contractual relationship of the former life of sin - we are not bound to any former ways of living, choices, or memories. We are set free to pursue new choices, making new memories, and engaging in new life activities which build us up and make us stronger. Just sayin!