Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday in Lent 4

Romans 7:13-25 (8:1)
v. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
v. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

In this passage Paul's talk about sin and the law turns personal. He relates his own experience of wanting to do the right thing but ending up doing the wrong thing. He goes on to vent his frustration at this, ending with the exclamation, "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (v. 24). It is meant to resonate with our own experience.

It reminds me of the first verse of Amazing Grace, the hymn written by the former captain of a slave ship, John Newton, who came to see the evil he had perpetrated:

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

Paul too, knows this amazing grace and proclaims his rescuer in v. 25: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Then he goes on to say the radical words: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." The verse starts chapter 8, but the "therefore" clearly links it to what has gone before.

"No condemnation!" This does not mean that there is neither any sin nor our need for repentance. It does mean that we do not repent out of fear of condemnation. We do it out of desire for relationship. Any condemnation Jesus has taken upon himself "once for all." That is the good news, and it is very good news indeed.

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