Doing and Refraining

Read Romans 7:15-25a

As a child matures, they will test boundaries established by parents and other adults in life. This is a part of the learning process. The testing seems to drastically increase throughout  the teenage years as the child strives to establish even greater independence. Frequently the child will do what he/she knows is wrong in an effort to discover any reactions and repercussions. In a strange way this is necessary for a healthy level of independence to be nurtured. As adults the role is to minimize the risks to the child, and clearly communicate and fairly administrate repercussions.

Paul wrestled with this conundrum as he wrote to the Roman believers. Using himself as an example, Paul. says that he knows what he should do, and even desires it, but he consistently fails to do what is right. He also says the opposite is true, he knows what not to do but does it anyway. A vicious cycle exists. After confessing this reality, Paul indicates only Jesus saves him from this cycle destroying him.

This passage makes it easy for us to relate to Paul. Each one of us understands and lives the cycle which Paul describes. The saving act of Christ is the only thing which saves us from the severe repercussions of our actions. We must continuously learn from this cycle, striving to improve each time we travel around it. Like a child hopefully learns and matures  into an adult who strives to limit the errors in choices, we mature into followers of Christ who do more good as we want and should while doing less of those things we should not. The grace and salvation of Christ will keep us safe as we learn and grow.

By Faith

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:23-29 (NIV)

Raising children can be a challenge at times. When children become mobile, parents must begin establishing boundaries. Boundaries are important to attempt to keep children safe and to help them learn what behaviors are beneficial and what ones are harmful. These boundaries change and adapt as the child ages. Through the teenage years, the youth attempts to establish some independence which often results in pushing back at boundaries. Eventually the child matures enough that the boundaries, which the parents established as an act of love, are no longer necessary.

In the passage from Galatians, we hear of a similar transition. Paul writes that prior to the arrival of Christ, God needed to establish boundaries, or the Law, to guide humans so they would remain safe and choose beneficial behaviors. God did this as an act of love just as parents do when they give children boundaries. When Christ arrived, we no longer needed the Law as our guide but instead we look to Christ’s teachings. We also no longer would be justified by our obedience to the Law but now by our faith in Christ. Christ made all people children of God, not only those who were from a certain heritage or any other human classification. Paul says that any who are in Christ are now heirs to the promise of Abraham.

The clear message which Paulis communicating to us today is we are full children of God by faith and not adherence to a set of rules. Faith in Jesus Christ releases us from having to be under the guardianship of the Law. This faith, believing in the teachings and saving acts of Jesus, has led to our adoption into the family of Abraham. We are a part of Christ when we believe in Christ. All of us have always struggled with fulfilling everything in the Law but now this is no longer the standard. Our new standard is having faith in Jesus.