Thursday, February 2, 2012

Romans 7

Romans 7 takes us back a step to examine the difficulty of living the Christian life and especially attempting to live the moral requirements on our own. Based on what Paul writes here,  I am convinced that St. Paul was a golfer. Look how he describes his plight: "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I so not what is what I do." (verse 19) It sounds a lot like my golf game (I don't want to hit it in the lake but it goes in the lake, I want to hit it down the fairway  . . . it does not go down the fairway.)
    The struggle that Paul describes is a universal struggle for all of us who strive to live the way of Christ. We find ourselves in a constant state of transformation and that state of transformation creates a constant war within ourselves. Our "old nature" that part of us that always wants our own way; that part of us that lusts and strives and lives pridefully and greedily; is at constant war with the way of Christ that calls us to wholeness, to holiness and to learning to live at peace with ourselves and those around us. If we had to do this by our own human effort and striving we would find ourselves in the exact situation that Paul is describing in the first few chapters of Romans -- that is to say we would find ourselves in despair or rising cynicism at not being able to do what we have chosen to do. We cannot do this on our own.
     Thus Paul writes: "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? thanks be to god through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (24/25). We are not doing this on our own. A core truth of living the Christ life is this: we conquer through surrendering to God. Best described in George Matheson's hymn from 1890 titled "Make Me a Captive Lord:
     Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
     Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.
     I sink in life's alarms when by myself I stand;
     imprison me within thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.

     My will is not my own till thou has made it thine;
     if it would reach a monarch's throne, it must its crown resign.
     it only stands unbent amid the clashing strive
     when on thy bosom it has leant, and found in thee its life!

More importantly, Paul continues in 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." but that is tomorrow's text!

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