From Verse 13 on, in Chapter 7 of Romans, Paul talks about how he hates the sin he does. The law made him aware of the sinfulness of his actions and the suffering it causes him and others. He now hates it, but has not yet gained the habit of changing these actions. Paul states, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do want I want, but I do what I hate” (v15).
Does this sound familiar in our own lives? How frustrating it is to fall into the same habit over and over again and feel its effects every time. But God is always there to help us. Thank God for confession! In confession we find the grace to overcome the slavery to sin. The fact that Paul does what he hates is an expression of this slavery. The old habit slowly dies away. But prayer and forming a new habit is also needed. It means taking a different action, physically, with our bodies. We do our part and God does His.
We could do our part all we want; if we do not accept God’s grace, evil persists. We may improve in one bad habit only to discover that another has grown. Evil has no shame and is happy to keep us down. Our freedom is in living a life of holiness where we experience God’s grace through us. This may happen more often than we think. Be open to this freedom.
Paul goes on to explain the spirit of the flesh in Chapter 8. This spirit of the flesh is not something that has concern for the physical world, and therefore is termed as evil. It is a preference to the things of this world that would be used against God. It is the things of this world in so far as it is opposed to being a child of God. God created this world good (Gn 1:31). He meant the things of this world to reflect His goodness. Humanity has found a way to use it in a bad way. That is the spirit of the flesh.
“Creation waits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God” (Rom 8:19). Paul longs with hope for the redemption of his body to take full effect (v24-25). He wants to do the right thing, but realizes his weakness and knows all too well his need to depend entirely on God. Mind you, the letter to the Romans was written later in Paul’s life. He still is struggling with his sins. Being saved is a mixed experience. God’s grace has enlightened his mind and now guides his life, but not fully. His hope is in the complete and integrated life with Jesus his savior. Salvation is a process – a pilgrimage home in the divine life with God. This is our hope that is so worth fighting for.
Jesus Himself came and fought for us that Holy Thursday night through Friday until He breathed His last. He who is our just judge is the very one who died on the cross for us. This should give us hope. Paul even says, “What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died; rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us” (v31-34). Jesus gave us every reason for our hope. This hope should give us the courage to go to Him in our every need.