The Bible talks about death a lot. Death to animals, death to armies, death to Jesus, death to sin, and even death to death. Some of these references are literal. Animals, and Jesus, really died. But death is also used metaphorically in the Bible, as a way of stating submission and surrender. As Christians, we are live in both worlds. That is, we are fully submitted to Jesus (and therefore dead to submission to anything else) and consequently are ready to actually die should the demand come.
But, at least in the country where I am writing from, that call to physical death is not normative. It might be some day, either by persecution in a wide spread way, or in some random act of violence, but the death most of us practice is more likely to align with the first sense.
It’s a death to preference. It’s a death to our own ideas. It’s a death to our supposed rights as human citizens. It’s a death to our comfort and prestige.
But here’s the thing about this kind of death: It’s less like a single climactic decision in a decisive moment than it is a series of day to day choices. It’s less like a knife to the throat than a thousand tiny pin pricks.
Death to self is not a one time thing; it’s an all the time thing. It’s a commitment and a decision that must be renewed in a myriad of ways and contexts. It is a slow death rather than a quick one, one in which our appetites and desires have a way of popping back up like corpses slain in an attack of the zombies.
And here’s how Paul describes that dynamic in the book of Colossians 3:1-5:
“So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.”
Do you see the contrasting dynamic? As Christians, we have died with Jesus when we come into Christ. Paul treats this as a past tense reality; something that has happened to all who are in Christ. But then, in light of this death, how are we to respond?
We are to put to death. Put another way, we died, therefore we die. Over and over again.
These things – sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed – these deaths are the thousand ways whereby we bleed ourselves of the remnants of our rebellion to the authority of Jesus.
They are the daily pin pricks that arise from the reality of our death with Jesus.
Chances are, neither you or I are going to have a gun to our head today. Neither will we have a knife to our throats. But will be tempted to look at pornography? Will we be tempted to spread a rumor of a co-worker? Will we be tempted to resent our spouse for their insensitivity to our difficult day? Will we be tempted to provoke our children to anger because they haven’t yet learned to pour the right amount of milk in their cereal bowl?
You bet we will. You bet we will face these pin pricks of death. The question for most of us, at least today, isn’t whether we will deny Christ when facing down a gun; it’s whether we will deny Him by gratifying ourselves in these small ways.
The pin pricks are hard precisely because they are so small. So many. So many to choose; so many ways to die. And yet this is the choice before us today. It is indeed less like a knife to the throat. Less sudden, but painful nonetheless.