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The fantasy of death

Romans 6:1b-11

For more commentary on this week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which includes Copeland's current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the Century.

If Paul is right, we are living fantasy lives. Anytime we live as though power conquers and wealth protects, we live a fantasy. Anytime we live like death wins, we live a fantasy.

Paul tells us about a future that has already happened—yet we live not only like it hasn’t happened yet but like we don’t think it ever really will. Not only does death lose, but it has already lost. Sin makes no sense in a world that has been bathed by grace. 

I don’t pretend this is easy to grasp. The world peppers us with a barrage of reality-denying messages, trying to convince us that we are hostages to death, that we are buried under debt, that survival is only for the fittest.

I’ve heard that when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the behavior of the East German people didn’t change very much. They had spent two generations living in fear of the government and distrust of one another. During the height of communist rule, one out of seven people were paid spies. When democracy became the reality, it was hard to make the switch from distrust to trust. Even today some people still live as though the eyes of spies watch their every move. No amount of rhetoric or reason can change years of ingrained behavior. The people live in a world that ended a generation ago—in what is now a fantasy.

The fantasy world that seeks to control our lives ended 2,000 years ago. The definitive punctuation mark separating fantasy from reality—the super semicolon—occurs in the life of Christ. What God has always manifested through creation and declared through the prophets is fully revealed in the resurrection.

The fantasy of death has gone dark. If only we could live like it.

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If only we would

Stunning. My favorite theologian says, Say what you have to say and stop. She would like this. And I will certainly reflect on it.

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