Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday in Lent 4

Romans 7:1-12
v. 6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

Paul goes on at great length in Romans and in his other letters to proclaim that we no longer are bound by the law. Here he introduces his contrast to life under the law with "the new life of the Spirit." What does this contrast mean in practical terms?

It means (in terms I hope are not over-simplified) that we are no longer bound to a system that creates good people and bad people, that indeed depends on being able to label some people bad for its very existence. Instead we have a system in which the very Spirit of God is given as a gift, with no paritality shown by God. This is why we can, as our baptismal covenant says, "seek and serve Christ in all persons." We do not seek and serve Christ in only those we can discern as good. That distinction makes no difference to us anymore.

The great question remains, if we are no longer bound by the law, is there still such a thing as sin? Paul would say yes, there still is. But it is sin with a different frame of reference. It no longer has a "legal" frame of reference, it has a relational one. Sin is a violation of the relationship with God that is already established (and which cannot be broken), or a violation of relationship within the Body into which I have been permanently grafted (whether one thinks about this as the church or the human family).

This is why the response to sin is not punishment but repentance, the restoration of right relationship. When we sin we do not have to fear the wrath of God, we have to (re)turn to God's love.

Lent is now more than half over. Is there a right relationship you need to restore? There's still time so that your celebration of Easter is all the sweeter. Easter is, after all, the ultimate restoration of right relationship as the risen Christ seeks not vengeance on his betrayers, but offers them complete forgiveness and entrusts them with his continuing mission.

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