Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder follows the course of a young couple, with the help of Christie’s sleuth Miss Jane Marple, as they solve an eighteen year old mystery of the disappearance of young woman. They don’t know if she was murdered or ran off with a man, they don’t know who she would have run off with or who would have motive to murder her, and they don’t even know at first that one of them has a special connection with her.
Miss Marple, of course, has an unrelenting nature when it comes to solving mysteries. But she fears the young couple don’t realize their own danger. She counsels them to “let sleeping murder lie.” Waken a sleeping murder and you might also waken the murderer to strike again.
Sleeping Sin/Dead Sin
Miss Marple’s concerns remind me of how people deal with sin. Sleeping sins are those that seem to have stopped. You don’t feel the temptation, so you think it’s all in your past. Then it comes again, and you sin. It’s kind of like it sneaked up on you and took you down.
In fact, it’s exactly like that.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.(1 Peter 5:8.)
What does Peter advise his readers?
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8-9.)
- Be alert – don’t go to sleep in your relationship with God.
- Be sober minded – think rationally about the temptations you are prone to give in to.
- Resist Satan – his temptations are only that: temptations. It’s up to you to decide how to respond to them.
- Stand firm in your faith – you are grounded on the Solid Rock himself, Jesus. No one can take you off that firm foundation.
- Know you have company – your situation is not a unique or novel event to God, and not to the people in his family.
Can sin ever be dead, though, or must you always be fearing its power?
Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ
The thing is not to know how to kill sin dead, but to know that you have died to sin and it cannot rule over your destiny.
The death [Jesus] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:10-11.)
Does being dead to sin and alive in Christ mean we have a responsibility to resist temptation? In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul went on to say we do:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body* so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14.)
Paul said it is grace that leads you away from sin, not rules or law. After all:
God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance. (Romans 2:4.)
You can turn (the actual meaning of repent) to your Father in heaven without fear because precisely he is kind and full of grace, and not give in to temptation. This is what James described in a shorter version of Peter’s points about resisting temptation:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7.)
Satan flees at the sign of your resistance because you belong to God your Father. You are dead to sin and alive in Christ, and sin has no place in your eternal future. Sleeping sin may need you to remain sober minded and alert to resist it, but rest in the fact that your death to sin lasts forever in your life in Christ.
*Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5 discuss putting to death your sinful actions and desires. The verses do not talk of putting sin itself to death, but rather are about resisting temptation and taking yourself out of those situations where you are prone to sin. Killing sin itself is up to Jesus, and he has already finished that work. Romans 8:13 says as much when it tells us “if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” It is by the Spirit of Christ in you that you accomplish this, not by some power of your own will and strength.