“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” (Romans 7:15 – 18)
It is refreshing to hear that Paul sees himself clearly, in terms of doing what is right according to the example that Christ set down. It is good for me (and perhaps for you, beloved reader) to keep this in mind when reading other portions of the letter to the Romans, and other letters where Paul gives discourse on how to live out the Christian life. What I appreciate the most is that Paul frustrates himself in his attempts to live according the laws as Jesus Christ and the Divine set them down.
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.” (Verses 19 – 21)
That is not to say that I follow completely Paul’s logic; in broad strokes, yes, that evil and sin creeps in where he would rather do righteous and good acts. It is his relationship with the law, and which law he is talking about that confuses me.
“For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Verse 22 – 23)
So I have to remind myself that Paul was, in some respects, a student of the law. But it was the established Jewish law that outline what one NOT do, but was less clear on what one should do – I think. So I try to follow along on Paul’s thinking, admiring him for being so up front and forth right concerning where he feels he has failed to live an accountable and authentic Christian life. I have deliberately decided NOT to consult the commentators on this passage. I prefer Paul’s earnest if confusing declaration to the commentators working and re-working Paul’s theology on this matter. And at the end, Paul is clear.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Verses 24 – 25a)
It would be good, beloved reader, if we could all be so honest and open with ourselves and others in terms of living out our Christianity. Shalom & Selah!