Being a landlord is an adventure I never wanted to experience but one that was thrown upon me by necessity. We bought our house in New Jersey before the financial bubble burst with every intent of staying there for a very long time but both God and life, as happens, had other plans. But then the financial bubble had already burst and we found ourselves in the same lousy predicament I keep hearing from others, we owed way more than the house was worth and selling it was simply not an option, so we entered into landlord land. On a personal note, I try really hard to be a good landlord, to keep the property up and to be decent in my rent and still cover my costs.
But I also have had to deal with, when I was renting and heard about landlords who were just awful, they were bullies, barging into the house, demanding more than is ever reasonable, some even push for extra payments. You get used to dealing with it, often times giving in to even the most unreasonable demands because you’re stuck, you don’t feel like you have anywhere else to go or any other recourse. You get used to living a certain way like that.
Take this kind of imagery and transfer it to the faith life. Apart from the love of God we are living in rented space that isn’t our own with the worst kind of bully slumlord you can find-that is sin. Sin is always demanding from you, pushing you, barging into your life and telling you how to live, even calling your name and taunting you, telling you, you need it.
We get used to living this way, often because we don’t think there is any other option, we’re stuck in this rental with this landlord and I’ve got to deal with it even if it means giving in to behaviors I know aren’t right. Think about the sinful behaviors that you deal with on a regular basis, that are part of your struggle, that is the bully slumlord demanding payment from you, barging into your life and telling you how to live and when we behave in those ways we’re living how the slumlord wants us to, letting it take over who we are. But again, even when we do struggle we often feel like we don’t have any other options. I’m stuck in this place, this is where I’m living, this is who I am.
But what if you weren’t living there anymore? What if someone had come and paid all of the bills, all of the rent, anything that you owe to the bully slumlord and given you a new place to live, a place that you don’t rent anymore but that you own, that is your own? Would you get out? I would! Now you’re in your new place and the bully landlord from your old place keeps showing up, saying you owe more payments, demanding more from you and you might be very well tempted because you’re so use to giving in to him to keep giving in to him again. The bully landlord is scary and large and you don’t think you can take him on with your own strength but you don’t have to. All of the bills have been paid, you don’t owe him anything, ever, you call the police and they can take him away if he keeps pushing, but you don’t have to live like your under his thumb anymore.
This is how Pastor Paul in Romans 6:1-11 says that we are to consider ourselves. (I’m going to give you the whole reading today, just let what Paul is saying sink in…)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 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, in order that, just 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 in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For 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.
Apart from the love of God in Jesus we were living in the house of sin with the bully slumlord, even when we struggled against sin with our own power it was never enough. But there has been a change, not in how strong you are but where you live. You are not living in the house of sin but in the House of Grace. This house was purchased for you by the very blood of Jesus on the cross and it is through your baptism and the gift of faith from God that your name is written on the deed. The house of grace because of Jesus is your home where you live right now. You don’t owe the bully landlord sin anything because Jesus paid it all and gave you this wonderful house to live in that is paid in full.
When sin comes barging into your home demanding you pay it, give it what it wants, do what it says. Resisting temptation, first and foremost is not a matter of your will or strength but of believing and trusting that who you are, beloved Child of God, and where you live, in the House of Grace, is truly who you are and where you live and believing this, not having to live like you live in the house of sin anymore but learning to live in your new place God has given to you.