There are two types of crimes that tend to cause us to cringe in horror. In one type, a well respected person commits a major crime using his access to the target loot while the real criminal holds his family hostage. In the other type, a “normal” person is given a criminal task to do by the criminal who enforces his will by strapping a remote control bomb onto the victim. In both cases people who would never engage in criminal activity are compelled to do something they would never choose out of fear for their own life or the lives of their loved ones.
Paul, while not dealing with hostage situations, deals with the very real problem of someone who wants to live the right way, but keeps getting drawn back into sinful behavior. The passage in Romans 7 is one of the most confusing, but accurate, back and forth passages of the internal battle with the person who wants to do the right thing, but they keep getting drawn back into their sinful behavior. Paul sums up the battle in these words: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)
Oh, we know that we’re supposed to be good, and do good. We know that and we strive for that. We work hard to get rid of our bad habits, and just when we think we have them beaten; we fall back into our problem behavior, or we find a new bad habit. It’s maddening. After awhile we give up our quest to do good as hopeless and settle into our sinful behavior seeking to console ourselves that at least we tried. The solution that we failed to take advantage of is mentioned near the end of the chapter as Paul re-enacts the cry of the person who keeps on trying: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
If we live under the burden of trying to be good, we seem to think that we have to do it ourselves. It is the old, fallacious idea that somehow we can make ourselves good enough that God might be able to love us. We can’t. The key to being the people we want to be is to give up being good on our own and trust in the love and grace of God. As we live in the grace of God, we find out that a lot of the things that we have been trying unsuccessfully to change gradually change. Our desires that prompted the sinful behavior change because we desire to be more like Jesus. We don’t have to try hard to get rid of sin; we no longer desire it. That’s how the grace of God works. We come to God in grace and we live each day in His grace. Our lives are slowly changed as we become like Him.
Dear Lord, I so want to come before You clean and without sin. I realize that’s impossible. I need to depend on Your grace. Give me the grace to be able to know You and then work in me through Your grace so I can be the person I should be.