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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 7:15–25a        

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. (NRSV)

We live in an either-or culture. Coffee or tea. Yes or no. Good or bad. We have a hard time knowing how to live into the tension of both-and, the gray area. We learn this in a variety of ways, and this scripture can easily cause us to fall into an either-or mindset. Paul writes about his inner conflict of wanting to follow God’s law but regularly falling short. He calls himself a “body of death.” Because he can’t be perfect (good), then he must be bad. We know this is not true at all, yet we’ve internalized this too. Paul did wonderful ministry for the church, and some of his words have hurt people. We mess up—sometimes in huge ways, sometimes more than we even understand—and we are a good and incredible gift from God. How can we hold the tension of this both-and?

We feel all the feels and resist the temptation to numb ourselves. We seek to recognize the reality of who we are by not inflating our ego and not deflating our ego. We move towards what is uncomfortable about ourselves and confront it, know it, learn about it. This is healing work. We meet Christ in these transformative moments. Ah, the conundrum of human brokenness. Praise be to God that we are not alone in this struggle and we have Christ to help us in our healing, for the sake of the world’s healing!

Loving Christ, you sought a holistic healing for the world that calls us to live into the tension of what is harmful and what is good in this world. Sometimes we feel crippled by our brokenness. Empower us to see the reality of the world today. Help us learn from our mistakes and hold self-compassion. Amen.

Written by Abbi Heimach-Snipes, Pastoral Resident

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