I remember the feelings of impending doom and responsibility as I entered the title company. In just a few short minutes I would begin filling out information, signing, and initialing hundreds of forms to buy my first home. Few decisions in my life required more commitment—marrying my wife, having children, and buying the jar of Serendipity Salt that crystallized in my spice cabinet. Fear, nausea, and the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome set in the closer I got to the bottom of the stack of forms. The next day, the glaring sun burned my eyes as I emerged from the title office as a homeowner. I had copies of the deed signed in blood and copied in triplicate. The light of freedom seemed a lifetime away, at the end of a thirty-year tunnel.
Most Americans rattle around their homes shackled like Jacob Marley by the chains of their mortgages—the death pledge. The word “mortgage” comes from the Latin mortuus meaning “death” and the Middle English gage meaning “pledge or wager.” Death pledge! The feeling of impending doom is a natural reaction to mortgages. Lenders challenge us to a duel, haggle over rates, and bet we will give up and become their tenant farmers.
With the blood still drying on the deed to my house, I realize there is another contract punctuated with death—the deed to my soul. Christianity pledges death. It begins with my personal death, being dead in my sins (Eph. 2:1). By breaking the covenant of righteousness, I sentenced my soul to die, spiritually murdering my connection with God. In this way, the choice to sin is a pledge of death. Thus, Moses encouraged the children of Israel to “choose life” (Deut. 30:19).
The holiness of God disallows Him to look upon sin and ignore it, as Habakkuk noted, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Heb. 1:13). With man spiritually dead and sin still present, God’s love found a way to redeem mankind, appease His wrath, and honor his holiness—a death pledge. God sent His Son to die and shed His blood as a payment to assuage God’s sensibilities and offset man’s guilt. Jesus signed and sealed the ultimate blood contract on the cross. He endured death to bring us life.
Once we realize our indebtedness to God for His love, grace, and mercy another contract becomes necessary—and yes, it too is a death pledge. At repentance we change our minds and instead of nurturing our sinful desires, we murder them as the “old man.” At baptism we bury the old man in a funerary rite. Then we resurrect from the watery grave as new creatures (Rom. 6:4-6), continuing our pledge to murder sinful ways (Col. 3:5).
Some wonder why Christianity is shrouded in so much death. In reality it is just the opposite— Christianity offers life (John 10:10). Consider the facts: spiritual death comes from our personal sins, which psychological sciences tell us make us feel “dead inside.” Physical science reports that each day we live, we die a little more. Our cells die and slough off. Our organs degenerate to irreparable states. Literally, we are dying. But the promise of Christ is life. The devil wagers against us, hoping we will deny the quickening power of Jesus. All the while, God continues to entice us to faith through the creation, the church, and Christians.
In effect, Christianity is a mortgage on life itself, lasting well past thirty years and the shelf life of Serendipity Salt.