November 6, 2014
Doing the “right thing” can be hard; gut wrenchingly hard. Being a person of integrity can be painful and emotionally devastating. You may have heard this but “integrity” has been defined as, “The person you are when no one is around.” I shudder to think. It can be traumatizing to do the right thing, to go against the flow, to buck the system… is it any wonder that we too often choose to simply let things go? To say or do nothing when something clearly needs to be addressed? Folks in the work place who “blow the whistle” on illegal or immoral activities; how do they do it? After all, losing friends, loved ones and maybe our livelihood… is it really worth it?
There are a few occasions in my life where I think I did the right thing in the midst of intense pressure to remain silent. The sleepless nights, the emotional trauma, the depression, the chest pains… is it any wonder that I think twice or more before putting myself in those situations again? I know, I know, as Believers we should do what’s right regardless of the cost. We ought to honor God in our lives by being people of honesty and veracity. But it’s so… HARD! I’m ashamed of those times when I have allowed myself to turn away and not do the things that I know I should. I wonder if there are others who feel the same?
The Apostle Paul comments on this dilemma in two ways… First he says that we live in a perpetual state of emotional/theological turmoil. He refers to our pre Christian state as the “old self.”
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin….
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires….
The “old self” is that part of us that continues to sin or not do what God desires. It is particularly exasperating that even though we have been delivered from our sinful lives we continue to sin anyway.
I once heard the story of a farmer whose dog wouldn’t stop killing his chickens. So he took a dead chicken and tied it around the neck of the dog and allowed the bird to rot and putrefy. It wasn’t long before the dog no longer wanted anything to do with chickens. Our old self is not unlike that. It hangs around even though it is dead and disgusting. Tragically, it isn’t revolting enough that we can abandon it fully, so we continue to live lives filled with sin and regret.
Paul, in a moment of personal vulnerability, documents his inability to do what is right. Take a moment to look at Romans 7.
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
This thought has often crossed my mind; “Wow, if Paul can’t do what he knows is right… what hope do I have?!” Thankfully our hope is found in v. 25. “Thanks be to God.” If it’s not too inappropriate to question Paul’s words… uh… well… I would say that is an understatement!
It would be easy for me to end this with a platitude. Something like “So live as those who have been freed from sin. From this day forth you no longer have to be in rebellion against God. Starting today ‘repentance’ will not be necessary because sin is in your past.” But of course I know what life is. And I, along with Paul, know what it is to want to do the right things, but not be able to.
So, don’t live your life in perpetual guilt. Live your life as one struggling to do the right things. And live your life with the full knowledge that your sin has been paid for on a cross. Thanks be to God!
Oh yeah, a healthy dose of repentance wouldn’t hurt either.