Romans 7

This review of Romans 7 is provided by KatyJane, a former-mormon now emergent Christian.

Summary
This chapter starts out by talking about why we are no longer bound to the Jewish law. When we take on Christ’s name, when we make the decision to follow Jesus Christ, we are no longer bound by the written law, but by the law of the Spirit.

He then continues to talk about the law, and the relationship between the law and sin. Paul says that while the law is not sin, without the law we wouldn’t know what sin was.

For apart from the law, sin is dead.

And honestly, I don’t follow Paul’s logic in verses 11-12. He says:

For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

I guess I don’t see that it necessarily follows that the law is holy and the commandment is holy, righteous and good, but Paul indicates that it is with the ‘so then’.

This chapter also makes me question whether the death that Paul is talking about is physical death. I think it makes more sense to think about it as separation from God.

But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

Earlier, he gave an example of coveting, and said that with the commandment against coveting, Paul coveted all sorts of stuff. And it would seem that applying that example here would mean that Paul knew that he shouldn’t be coveting, and so he was separated from God in all the ways he coveted. It produced separation from God in him through the following of the commandment not to covet.

Reflection
I think that when looking at Paul, it is a mistake not to look at him as a man, and to see what his possible motivations might have been in the things that he wrote. I don’t ascribe to the theory that every word in the Bible is perfect and transcribed from God’s lips to our eyes, but rather that it was written by normal people doing their best to get stuff right.

I feel like when reading this chapter, I see Paul as being full of shame. The things that he expresses are perhaps felt by everyone more or less with regards to different things. For example, where he says:

For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 

I personally find myself wasting time on stuff that doesn’t bring me nearer to my personal or spiritual goals, and then ruing the fact later on when I don’t have time or energy to do the things that I am passionate about. And I might even go so far as to say that that wastefulness could be considered sin, especially if it is drawing me away from the things that I might be doing that would make me a better Christian, a better wife, a better mother, sister, friend, daughter, person.

It’s possible I’m reading into Paul wrong, but I just can’t bring on self-loathing, nor do I think it’s appropriate. It seems like if I spend all my time hating myself, I will never treat myself as a temple of the Lord, I will burn out my candles and I will bury all my talents. But if I see myself as someone who has a little bit of a spark, I can take that spark and the oxygen that is Jesus, and grow the light into something worthwhile.

I get the impression that Paul thinks that we are not inherently good or even inherently neutral beings—but that we are inherently evil. And I just can’t get on board with that. Now don’t get me wrong–I think salvation through Jesus Christ is necessary and without it we’re sort of screwed (although I would be hesitant to define ‘screwed’ because I am fuzzy on what the afterlife entails). But I think that people are basically good, and it gives me hope. Through Jesus Christ, with His help, I can do the things that I want to do. I can overcome. I might have to work hard. I might have to set hard limits for myself in order to reach those goals. But I am not incapable of any good. I don’t think I have to be sold as a slave to sin. And while the glory of any good that I do I give to God, I believe that I worked for it, and did it to glorify God.

Because, as Paul says at the end of the chapter, Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

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50 thoughts on “Romans 7

  1. KatyJane,

    You are right, we don’t need to self-loathe.

    But we do need to realize what sinners we are, and that we have no righteousness in ourselves.

    “The wages of sin is death.” This is what the law (the Commandments, and any other demand made of us by our existence) We can never fulfill all of these demands perfectly, as did our Lord.

    We need to realize that we are in great need of a Savior.

    By God’s grace, we are brought to those realizations.

    Thanks, KatyJane. Nice job.

  2. KatyJane, I think you’re absolutely right about bringing up the notion of the nature of man, whether man is essentially evil or essentially good. In order to build a theology of redemption, theologians have typically decided first whether man is inherently evil or inherently good. Different theologians have wrestled with this question. One can point to the fact that man is made in the image of God (essentially good), but that his nature has been marred by the fall, but retains free will. Others believe that even if man was created good, because of the fall, he is inherently evil and lacking free will.

    One of the problems I find is that when people examine their life, they may feel one way or the other depending on how they feel about their life at a certain time. Pounding the fact that we are sinners in the abstract for too long, seems to me, to cause something in some of us to resist and reject the idea. Likewise, continually claiming that whatever man can conceive he can achieve, has limitations and won’t seem appropriate at certain times in our lives. Perhaps human nature is too complicated to be completely relegated to one side or the other.

  3. The Holy Scriptures, an honest look at ourselves, and the entirety of human history show us what lies deep in the human heart.

    We are sinful by nature.

    Does that make us completely bad? Of course not. We are capable of a great deal of good.

    But when it comes to the kind of goodness that is needed for our justification before the Living God, we are woefully lacking.

    God knows this, and yet He loves us anyway. That is why He sent His only Son into this world, to show us what we were meant to be, that we might realize our willful rebellion and the impossibility of obtaining righteousness by what we do…and then to forgive us, and die for us.

    What an awesome God we have.

  4. I believe that people are inherently good, but individuals make bad choices. I have no idea how theologically sound such reasoning is, but I base it on my observations of those around me. I just know too many people of too many different philosophical backgrounds who do good things all the time to believe that we are inherently evil and that it is only through Christ that we can overcome.

    Like katy, though, I absolutely believe that redemption comes only in and through Christ. I absolutely believe that Christ is central to God’s plan for each of us–that without Christ, there is no plan.

    However, I also absolutely believe that we are all born good, and that we learn how to act in evil ways. Yes, the “natural man” is an enemy to God, but, to me, the “natural man” is a learned behaviour.

    When I read Paul’s laments about his sinfulness, or any author of scripture, I am reminded that the men and women of scripture were just men and women; imperfect people trying to do their best and trying to convey what God had taught them, in the hope that it would benefit others. I am grateful for Paul’s acknowledgement of his own weaknesses. It reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect to commune with God and feel of His spirit. I just have to be open to the experience.

  5. @theoldadam – Nobody is claiming that man is perfect, or even good enough to go hang with God. Just that we’re not inherently evil.

    If we are inherently evil, but God loves us, does that mean that God loves evil? Or does He then just love our potential? But if we have the potential to be so much more, that makes us NOT inherently evil, but people who make mistakes on the way to greatness.

  6. Not inherently evil, although there is evil within us all, and we are capable of it…but inherently sinful.

    God does hates evil (as we are to, also), but He loves sinners.

    “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

    Jesus told us himself, that he did not come for the healthy (for they do not need a physician), but rather he came for the sick.

  7. @theoldadam – Again, I don’t know that anyone has disagreed with you that people are sinners. And that that is different than being inherently evil.

  8. Well, some here have said that we are inherently good. The Scriptures refute that, as does a look at the scope of human history.

    Jesus said that “all men (people) are liars.” That might not make them evil, but it doesn’t make them good (the kind of ‘good’ required to enter God’s Kingdom), either.

  9. katyjane: nice work. I’m with you on thinking that Paul’s logic gets a bit fuzzy around verse 12.

    theoldadam: “some here have said that we are inherently good.”

    Who? I’ve lost track….

  10. I look at the history of humankind — Rwanda comes to mind, but more recently the revelations about how Iraqi troops treated their own citizens — and I have a hard time seeing much inherent goodness. I don’t care how “good” a society is, the human experience is invariably one of people exploiting others.

    And it isn’t hard to come up with (and I think Tim said something about this recently) ways in which all of us, even living in an “advanced” country, simply by going about our daily business, participate in evil in some ways. (I’m writing on a computer right now that was built by people in China who probably were working under unenlightened conditions, yet only when I think about it does my conscience bother me.) And I love my children dearly, but that doesn’t mean I have always treated them in a loving manner (although, for better or worse, there have been more sins of omission than commission, but those can be damaging too).

    I wouldn’t use the phrase “inherently evil,” but I do believe that human experience points to a universal fallen nature in some sense of the word. What Paul says is consistent with that.

    Alex said:

    When I read Paul’s laments about his sinfulness, or any author of scripture, I am reminded that the men and women of scripture were just men and women; imperfect people trying to do their best and trying to convey what God had taught them, in the hope that it would benefit others. I am grateful for Paul’s acknowledgement of his own weaknesses. It reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect to commune with God and feel of His spirit. I just have to be open to the experience.

    That I agree with. If Paul could struggle, I don’t have to beat myself up over the fact that I do too.

  11. Institutionally, people are capable of atrocities. Absolutely. But that is evidence of our fallen nature. Not evidence that we are inherently bad.

    I see the good shine through in my kids, and in the kids they play with. Sure, they act with human nature, including selfishness, etc. That is part of what makes us sinful.

    But when a little boy down the road comes out with early Halloween candy he got and wants to share it with all the kids outside (note–last night that was about 10 kids), not because anyone asked him to or made him, but because he really wanted to share. And when I said I didn’t want the candy to spoil the kids dinner, he asked if he could give me some of it to give to the kids after they ate dinner.

    I see the love and the joy and the sweetness that my kids are made of, and I refuse to believe that they are inherently evil. Will they be sinful? Sure. Do they commit sins now? Maybe (that’s another discussion for another time). Are they perfect? No.

    But their innocence, their love, their awe… that’s all good. If people are evil or do evil, I believe that’s learned. Not inherent. At worst, we are inherently neutral, capable of swinging one way, or the other, or both depending on circumstances.

    Is the Bible really concerned with good vs. evil though? Or is it more concerned with sin vs. righteousness? Maybe inherently good or inherently bad isn’t a question we even need to be thinking about.

  12. Eric: as a Mormon, you need to take the question of inherent good/evil back another step to our premortal life—and even a step before that. I don’t think we have enough information about that state to know whether we were inherently good or evil—or, as I stated previously, neither, just inherently able to choose.

    (For sake of illustration—and not that I believe this—we could be inherently good spirits living in an inherently evil physical world.)

  13. Thanks, KatyJane.
    I particularly liked your comments on Paul’s use of the word “death”—that it makes more sense to think about it as separation from God rather than physical death.

  14. BrianJ,

    theoldadam: “some here have said that we are inherently good.”

    “Who? I’ve lost track….”

    It’s about a dozen comments back or so.

    I’m not here to point the finger at anyone, but I would like for people to understand the huge problem at hand in all of this, and that is our sinfulness and lack of ability to clean ourselves up.

  15. I’ve gone on the record as saying people are generally decent, and I don’t think the existence of atrocities undermines that at all. For every staggering atrocity, there’s years and years of people just going about their business and bieng basically decent to each other.

    But I’m not talking about “inherent” anything.

    I’m not here to point the finger at anyone, but I would like for people to understand the huge problem at hand in all of this, and that is our sinfulness and lack of ability to clean ourselves up.

    Nobody here is saying that people never sin or never do evil things ever. Nobody here would deny that everyone has done a wrong thing at least once. What we’re talking about is whether that makes us inherently evil. I think it’s ridiculous to say we’re inherently evil because we slip up once in awhile. That’s nonsense. It does pretty fierce torture to the meaning of the word “evil.”

    We’re not all that “sinful.” Most people don’t go around raping, murdering, torturing and stealing. Most people aren’t villains. And I think most people manage to do the right thing more often than they do the wrong thing. Making mistakes doesn’t make us vile sinners. That’s nonsense.

  16. Pingback: Romans 7 « Mommy CPA

  17. Said to me:

    as a Mormon, you need to take the question of inherent good/evil back another step to our premortal life—and even a step before that. I don’t think we have enough information about that state to know whether we were inherently good or evil—or, as I stated previously, neither, just inherently able to choose.

    I’ve taken no position on what we are inherently. In fact (going back to the pre-existence), I’d suspect that there is a part of us that’s inherently good (after all, we’re created in the image of God). But I do believe firmly that we’re in fallen world; the scriptures tell me that, my empirical observations tell me that. And the fallen world, I believe, does affect our natures — but through grace we are able to become new creatures.

    Katyjane said:

    Is the Bible really concerned with good vs. evil though? Or is it more concerned with sin vs. righteousness? Maybe inherently good or inherently bad isn’t a question we even need to be thinking about.

    You may be right; we might just be caught up in semantics here; I’m not sure. I don’t think there’s any question here, though, that Paul says we all have sinned, and that only through the work of Christ, and through real faith, can we ever become all that God intended us to be.

  18. Yep, I said that I believe people are inherently good, and I’ll gladly say it again for the record.

    Being inherently good does not mean inherently perfect, nor inherently sinless, nor that people are inherently prone to always act correctly. To me, being inherently good is like what kullervo just said: people are decent, by and large. Atrocities are rarely carried out by the majority, and, while I am by no means an historian, I believe the record will show that, throughout the course of human history, more people were worried about making it through their day to day lives than they were about hurting others.

  19. Kullervo,

    You, being a non-believer, would think it is nonsense.

    I don’t fault you for that. I wouldn’t expect that you believe sin to be the big poblem in the world that it is.

  20. If one could look at the world as it is today, and the entirety of human history and say that man is “inherently good”, then I think one is kidding themselves.

    And not only that, they are disregarding the witness of Holy Scripture, which is quite clear on the matter.

  21. Then I am kidding myself and ignoring the more hyperbolic passages of scriptures, such as the ones that say that “there is none that is good, no none” — I read those as using the word “good” as a synonym for “perfect” even though it isn’t and shouldn’t be.

  22. Yeah…Romans 3 is pretty clear about it.

    Even Jesus says, “there is none good but God”

    We are capable of good, and we do good (even if our motives are tainted).

    The good the Bible speaks of, and which is necessary for righteousness and justification in God’s eyes, is what really matters in these theological discussions.

    Everything else is just a feel good exercise which keeps our rose colored glasses firmly in place and makes true repentance that much more difficult.

  23. If one could read theoldadam’s comments today, and the entirety of his comments and say that they are “correct”, then I think one is kidding themselves.

    And not only that, they are disregarding the witness of Holy Scripture, which is quite clear on the matter.

  24. How so, BrianJ?

    How do my comments differ from St. Paul’s words in Romans 3?

    Or the many other places in the Bible which describe our lack of true goodness?

  25. Everything else is just a feel good exercise which keeps our rose colored glasses firmly in place and makes true repentance that much more difficult.

    Yet at no point have I given even the slightest hint of an indication that I believe that repentance is unimportant. In fact, I’ve done quite the opposite. I fully acknowledge that we must repent, that we must turn to Christ, and that it is only by and through Christ that salvation is possible.

    But when I talk about people being good, I’m not talking about the good that is perfect righteousness. I am talking about being decent. Decent folk need to repent just as much as anyone else. Decent Christian folk are probably more in need of repentance than anyone, because they know “the law” (meaning the Gospel) and are therefore held more accountable to their obedience (or lack thereof).

    Being good isn’t enough. Christ didn’t say “Be ye therefore good”–he said “perfect”; yet we who know the Gospel know that we can’t be perfect, which is why we need Christ, and why we need repentance.

    For me, it all gets down to the point that Katy made in the OP: self-loathing and preaching total depravity doesn’t, for me, do anything to help me draw nearer to God. Knowing that I’m a decent guy but I still need God in order to become what He wants me to be, that does. That gives me a goal. It gives me hope that, because of Christ, I can become the perfect that Christ commanded me to be. But only through Christ. Not me.

  26. Oh…being ‘decent’.

    That’s all well and good…but when it comes to theological discussions, it’s really meaningless.

    And, when it coms to attaining perfection (working at it)…forget it. It ain’t gonna happen.

    Isn’t that the reason that we have a Savior, because we can’t do it?

    Thinking more highly of ourselves and believeing that we can be what God wants us to be, is playing into the ladder climbing game of ‘religion’.

    God wants to kill off our old self, and give us Himself. He does this in Baptism (Romans 6) and through His Word, preached, taught, and in the bread and wine of His Supper.

    I beliieve that. That’s why I am a Lutheran. Not to say that others are wrong, or bad, or unsaved…but to say that there is a more excellent way.

  27. To BrianJ and Alex:
    You guys have made Jesus Christ your Lord, right? Why did you make Jesus your personal Lord if you were already inherently good to begin with? (I’ll guess you’ll say, “To become even better,” in which case my question will have little effect. Oh, well . . . on to my next try.)

    Alex said, “Throughout the course of human history, more people were worried about making it through their day to day lives than they were about hurting others.” I’ll agree with that. But were they concentrating on surviving the next day because they wanted to glorify God? First Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That means everything we do with the intention of honoring anything other than God is a sin. Wow. I feel like Job after God spoke to him. Gulp.

    Kullervo said, “I think most people manage to do the right thing more often than they do the wrong thing.”
    But James 2:10-11 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
    I’d say it doesn’t matter how many “good” things you did before you became a follower of the Lord. You were a lawbreaker, period.

    I also think part of the problem here is that evil doesn’t look very evil while your eyes are totally are partially veiled by darkness. I’ve noticed that the closer I get to the Lord, the more evil evil looks. If that’s true, it stands to reason that to God even the best we could come up with on our own is . . . well . . . not nice.
    This brings me back to how amazing his grace is!

  28. First, I think that you can find a single verse of scripture to back up almost any point of doctrine you want, so citing a random verse out of context doesn’t necessarily convince me of anything.

    Second, nobody is saying that on our own the best we can come up with is even close to what we need.

    It’s like if my son wanted to go to the store and buy a gallon of chocolate milk (his personal mecca), but he had no way of getting money. So he offered to pay for it using Hot Wheels cars (pretty much the most valuable thing he thinks exists). He’s doing his absolute best to show how much the chocolate milk is worth to him. Hot Wheels cars aren’t going to pay for it.

    I think that God saw something worth saving in me (and you). In humanity. He realized we have nothing but Hot Wheels cars to offer. He came up with a way to pay (Jesus), and accepts the best that we can offer–ourselves. Our free will. Our choices. Our best efforts.

    My son, for not having access or the ability to pay using money, is not evil or wrong in a financial economy–he’s young and naive and doing his best. And aren’t we all? Who knows everything there is to know about God? (PS – if you think it’s you, you’re probably wrong.)

    If my analogy doesn’t work for you, here’s another thought:

    If I spend my life thinking I’m evil, horrible, and can do nothing but basically awful things, I’m going to give up at some point. Even knowing that Jesus Christ is there, I’m going to decide that it’s not worth it, that the whole thing seems stupid. Maybe that’s not you. That’s cool. If self-loathing works for you and brings you closer to God, more power to you. Hate away.

    Me, I love God above all others as best as I can, and try really hard to love my neighbor as myself. If I hate myself and think I am valueless, I probably won’t do a good job, by the way. I think that while I cannot possibly attain perfection, or even close to what is necessary to obtain salvation (whatever that might be), I can try really hard and God will be pleased that I was trying. I don’t think I have to hate myself all the time to get there. I can love me–something created by God–honor Him, glorify Him, and realize that I still fall short and need Jesus Christ.

    I don’t think that Jesus Christ suffered the sum of all sins. I believe he suffered an infinite suffering–something we could never have done (not being God and all). And it’s something we can’t really even conceive. I imagine we’ll cross to the other side and our jaws will drop at the enormity of what just happened, and how much we just had no idea about.

    I realize that I sin. Nobody here has denied the existence of sin, or of the sinful nature of humanity. Nobody has claimed that we are not a fallen people, nor that there is evil in the world. But it seems to me that God didn’t want us to hate ourselves.

  29. What does it mean to say that all humans are inherently evil or totally depraved? Can it possibly be proven, or disproven?

    What difference does it make to say that men are inherently good?

    People are the way they are, you can call them all evil and worthless but that seems a radically misanthropic idea, a near hatred of human life.

    It doesn’t seem that the argument is really arguing about something that could be proven. It seems that whether people are good, evil or neutral is an a priori judgment that you bring to observations of human nature.

  30. I think you are right.

    God does not want us to hate ourselves.

    But He does want us to realize what we are without Him. Totally lost.

    Many do not think that they are “that bad”.

    Then the need for a savior is not so great.

    A very dangerous place to be, indeed.

  31. @theoldadam – Nobody here is saying we’re not ‘that bad’ such that we don’t need a savior. So you’re sort of preaching to the choir, beating the choir like it’s a dead horse, and doing it such that no further conversation can be had about any of the other nuances.

    @ Jared – I think I agree. I think that inherently good vs. not is sort of meaningless and doesn’t make a difference to anything practically.

  32. Cal: “To BrianJ and Alex:
    You guys have made Jesus Christ your Lord, right? Why did you make Jesus your personal Lord if you were already inherently good?”

    Only Alex ever claimed that we are inherently good. I quite clearly said otherwise.

  33. Sorry about that, BrianJ.

    KatyJane said, “First, I think that you can find a single verse of scripture to back up almost any point of doctrine you want, so citing a random verse out of context doesn’t necessarily convince me of anything.”

    OK, if you’re so smart, how did I take those vv. how of context?

    Katy said, “Who knows everything there is to know about God? (PS – if you think it’s you, you’re probably wrong.)”

    Of course I don’t think I know everything about God. Far from it. Let the devil throw false accusations around. That’s his job, not yours.
    If you’re so into loving people then why do I sort of feel put down when you talk to me? The other bloggers don’t make me feel that way. (I’m saying this for your benefit, not mine.)

    KatyJane said, “I realize that I sin. Nobody here has denied the existence of sin, or of the sinful nature of humanity. Nobody has claimed that we are not a fallen people, nor that there is evil in the world.”

    Great! Let’s end our arguing on that important note of agreement.

    What’s also great is that as believers, you & I & the rest of the fantastic people on this blog, have had our sins wiped away by the blood of Jesus!

    KatyJane said, “But it seems to me that God didn’t want us to hate ourselves.” Absolutely not. “God so loved the world that he gave . . .” (John 3:16).

  34. @Cal – I’m sorry if you felt talked down to. It wasn’t my intention at all, and rereading what I wrote I don’t feel like I was being condescending. Perhaps you read sarcasm into what I wrote literally.

    “OK, if you’re so smart, how did I take those vv. how of context? ”

    I didn’t say that you DID take the verses out of context. I said that I feel like someone can always find a verse of scripture to back up what they say. It’s why LDS can use scripture to back up God and Jesus having physical bodies, and people who don’t believe that can find scripture to back up what they’re saying.

    “Of course I don’t think I know everything about God. Far from it. Let the devil throw false accusations around. That’s his job, not yours.”

    I wasn’t talking to our about you there. I was saying that all of us are naive and innocent in terms of our understanding of God. And anyone who thinks otherwise is probably wrong.

    “Great! Let’s end our arguing on that important note of agreement.”

    That’s what I was trying to say all day yesterday (and probably get incredibly frustrated because of it). TheOldAdam kept responding to everything that anyone said by saying that we’re all sinners and need to recognize it. But when we all agree that we’re all sinners, it’s not a point we need to keep harping on, even if he doesn’t believe that everyone realizes the depths of our depravity.

    But I don’t want to spend the entire time that I’m examining Romans ONLY realizing that I’m a sinner. I’d rather also see what else there is to offer. Otherwise, if that’s all there is to the scriptures, since I already realize that I am a sinner, then I don’t need to study it at all.

    Again, I’m sorry if you misunderstood what I said or took it as a personal attack.

  35. Cal,

    Katy did a great job of answering your question to me. I chose to accept my Saviour because all I have our Hot Wheels.

    TOA,

    I continue to lose you when you say that somehow believing we are decent leads us to believe we don’t need a Saviour. Maybe some people out there believe that, but I don’t, and I haven’t seen anyone (except kullervo, who is in a different class when it comes to these discussions) say so. And even he has acknowledged elsewhere that it is incredibly important that so many people do believe they need a Saviour. So why the constant beating of the choir with a statement that nobody made?

    Why is a discussion of people being decent theologically important? Because it contradicts the doctrine of total depravity. I believe that when Christ said “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and all the strength [and] thy neighbour as thyself” he truly meant it. We are told of three groups to love: God, our neighbours, and ourselves. If we believe we are totally depraved, then there isn’t anything redeemable to love about ourselves. If we believe our neighbours are totally depraved, then what can we possibly love about them? If we believe God created mankind in a totally depraved state, well, yeah, I’ll say it: what kind of God is that that gives us reason to give Him our love?

    “We love Him, because He first loved us.” He loved us by creating us, and giving us opportunities for growth. He loved us by sending His Son to suffer so that we do not. He loved us by allowing us to go through this mortal existence not alone, but with others. If God saw something worth loving in each and every single one of us, then, yes, I am going to see something worth loving in each and every single one, too. And what I see worth loving in each and every single person is that, despite the sinning, the poor choices, the mistakes, the whoopsies, and the omissions, they are still good, decent people with potential, through Christ Jesus, to one day (God only knows when) be something other than sinful mortals.

  36. Thinking of Paul’s pit in Romans 7, I like what Corrie Ten Boom writes, “There is no pit so deep but Christ is deeper still.”

  37. Kullervo said, “I think most people manage to do the right thing more often than they do the wrong thing.”
    But James 2:10-11 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
    I’d say it doesn’t matter how many “good” things you did before you became a follower of the Lord. You were a lawbreaker, period.

    You’re acting like a semantic bull in a china shop, Cal. I can’t help you if you insist on being willfully obtuse.

    Look, everyone, I don’t know what’s so hard about this. In Christianity, God’s standard is perfection. So you can be extremely good, but if you’re not perfect, you’re still not meeting God’s standard. God doesn’t want us to be “good.” He wants us to be perfect. So unless we’re perfect, we fail to meet God’s standard and we are in need of salvation, not only to pay for the sins we have committed, but to purchase the infinite destiny that God has planned for us.

    But none of that means we are evil, or filthy, or vile. James is using a rhetorical device to explain that salvation is simply not about the balance between good and evil deeds, but if you have committed any sins, you have failed to qualify for salvation and you need Jesus. In other words, even good people need Jesus to save them.

    Yes, if I think a mean thought about Cal, I have broken God’s law. That means I have failed to live up to God’s standard and am thus in need of atonement. It doesn’t mean that I am also guilty of rape and murder. For the purposes of the question “Am I saved?” it doesn’t matter whether my sins are heinous or minor, because all sin disqualifies me from salvation on my own merits. If the standard is 100, then 99 and 1 are both failure.

    But for the purposes of describing our character, our nature, it makes a heck of a lot of difference. No sane theory of culpability holds a person responsible for crimes they did not commit. It’s one thing to say that if I tell a fib, I am just as in need of salvation as a rapist, but it’s an entirely different thing to say that because I told a fib, I am also a rapist.

    It tortures linguistics and reason to insist that “good” means “perfect.”

  38. Also Cal, watch how you talk to my wife. She’s sweet and earnest, and she hasn’t been hostile to you. You want to get aggressive and huffy, do it with me.

  39. Katy said
    And honestly, I don’t follow Paul’s logic in verses 11-12

    I know what you mean. Here is the paraphrase from The Message. I think he says it better.

    Don’t you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.

  40. @KatyJane: Thanks for your last comments.
    @Kullervo: For someone who doesn’t claim to be a Christian, you sometimes have an amazing handle on Christian principles.

  41. Katyjane- I will give your son a gallon of chocolate milk for a Hot Wheels. As long as its a black Trans Am, or perhaps a ’69 Dodge Charger.

  42. I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to comment on this post, Katy! I loved it and I love YOU!! 🙂

    I really appreciated this:

    If I spend my life thinking I’m evil, horrible, and can do nothing but basically awful things, I’m going to give up at some point.

    I think the doctrine of total depravity leads exactly to what you’re saying — shame and self-loathing — which are emotions that do NOT come from God. I’ve actually spent a lot of time considering the total depravity perspective over the past couple of years. As someone who is particularly prone to feelings of shame, there was something appealing about the idea. It seemed like it gave me a Big Cosmic Reason Why I’d always felt so lousy about myself.

    In the end I rejected it, though. It seemed to feed the worst fears I had about myself and stole hope from me. Now I choose to focus on the fact that God made me in His image, that I have a spark of divinity in me as a result, that I am good and can be good, especially through His grace. It has made a tremendous difference in my ability to both love myself and serve others.

    I don’t know whether people are inherently evil or good; I think most likely it’s a mixed bag; but in either case, I think the idea that we’re all evil is a pretty unhealthy way to approach life.

    NOTE: this comment turned out to be way more personal than I’d intended, but what the heck. We’re all friends here. 🙂 Sorry if it made anyone uncomfortable, though.

  43. Pingback: Paul’s Epistle To The Romans | Songs From The Wood

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