"I cannot understand my own behavior, I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate." - Romans 7:15
Reading these words of Paul may come as a relief. Who knew? Paul also struggled! Even the great apostle was, at times, divided against himself, intending to do the right thing but doing something else entirely. Paul also knew what it was like to screw up. Hallelujah!
Since most of us know what a mixed bag we are, we may find it a relief to hear Paul (for a change) struggling. Welcome to the human race, old buddy.
And yet, is that really what Paul is saying here (the whole passage is Romans 7: 14 - 25)? And, by embracing these words in this way, are we perhaps giving ourselves an easy out . . . but also missing real hope and joy?
What Paul is describing is not so much the inevitable struggles of life, but life before he got saved. Then he was trapped, caught, unable to get it right no matter how hard he tried.
But Christ set him free from bondage to the twin powers, Sin and Death, free for another kind of life. A life less about him getting it right on his own and more about a working partnership with God, a reliance on God, a new life in the Spirit (which Paul described in chapter 8).
The message here is better than "misery loves company." It is that Christ really can free you for a new life altogether. We can, by the grace of God, experience what people in various 12-step programs call "recovery." We can walk in a true newness of life in Christ. Hallelujah that!
Help me, Holy One, to not settle for less than you intend for me. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.