Question:We don't talk a lot about renunciation in Christianity. Conservative Christians talk a lot about being forgiven but they don't talk a lot about renunciation. Progressive Christians talk a lot about justice but they don't talk a lot about renunciation.
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
I renounce them.
The Latin root of the word renunciation means "to protest against." The contemporary definition of renunciation means "the formal rejection of something." Synonyms of renunciation are: abstention from, refraining from, going without, giving up, eschewal of, repudiation, rejection, and abandonment.
As The Book of Common Prayer indicates, renunciation rests at the heart of the Christian identity. To be clear, renunciation isn't the whole of the Christian identity, but renunciation is a critical part of the foundation. To say Yes to "Jesus is Lord" involves an associated No.
For Jesus, this renunciation was inherently a denial of the self, a denial that creates the shape of the cruciform life.
Luke 9.23Renunciation sits at the heart of Christian discipleship. Whoever wants to be a disciple of mine, Jesus says, must deny themselves.
Then Jesus said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."
This denial is also described as self-mortification--dying to the self.
Now I have to admit, I have an ascetic streak. It's joyful and grace-filled, but I'm a big believer that spiritual maturity and sanctification involves daily acts of renunciation and self-denial. I'm hard on myself and I think that's important.
But many people don't have the tolerance for this conversation as it raises the grim and grey ghosts of monastic severity or conservative legalism. To say nothing about how people think self-denial implies having low self-esteem.
But as I point out in my book The Slavery of Death, the cross is a multivalent symbol. As Luke 9.23 clearly points out, yes, the cross is a symbol of self-mortification. To "take up the cross" means to "deny yourself."
But at the same time the cross is also a symbol of self-giving, self-donation and self-offering. The cross is also a symbol of love.
Which is to say, the sacrifice of the cross is a dying to the self that allows you to give yourself to others.
You aren't denying yourself in order to earn your way into heaven. Self-denial isn't about collecting spiritual merit badges. Nor are you denying yourself because God is a Puritanical Judge waiting to zap you with lighting bolts if you eat chocolate, dance or have an orgasm.
No, the reason you deny yourself is so that you can make yourself increasingly available to others.
Love requires self-mastery. Love requires a denial of the self.
Love requires discipline.
Love is discipline.
Love involves the renunciation of sin in our lives. A renunciation of wickedness and the Devil.
Ponder the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
How much self-denial is involved in, say, being patient? How much restraint and self-discipline?
What about gentleness? How much restraint, self-discipline, and self-denial is involved in being tender and gentle when you are frustrated, upset, angry, rushed, tired or irritable? Or when someone is being difficult, aggressive or hostile?
What about faithfulness? How much restraint, self-discipline, and self-denial are involved in fidelity, staying true to commitments, promises, and covenants?
My point here is that when we speak of "renouncing sin" we aren't thinking of Puritanism. We are thinking of self-discipline as a foundational capacity that allows the fruits of the Spirit to grow and flourish.