“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” – Romans 7:15
Last Sunday morning, we began a study of Paul’s controversial teachings from Scripture in the auditorium Bible class. Paul has been called racist, misogynistic, homophobic, hypocritical, and a jerk. Some believe his teachings support these accusations and some have chosen not to follow Paul’s teachings at all. They focus on the gospels and the books of Hebrews thru Revelation and totally exclude Paul’s letters from their reading. Paul has been and continues to be disliked by several people who don’t like his instruction.
I’m thankful for Paul’s writings. They are challenging and they do make you wonder, at times, what Paul meant through his teaching, but they reveal the heart of a man who strived for holiness while wrestling with his humanity. He called himself the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) He deeply wanted to be obedient to the teachings of Christ and the will of God but often found himself doing just what he didn’t want to do. (Romans 7:15) He was a man who strove for holiness but often found his humanity at odds with this pursuit. Paul felt the tension and conflict between the holy and the human.
As disciples in today’s world, we, too, feel this same tension. We want to walk closely to Christ and to follow his commands for our life. We want to live a life of sacrificial worship which is pleasing to God and a blessing to our family and friends. We want to love like Jesus. As we strive for this, our humanity often gets in the way. We let our anger infect our words and actions. We give into lust and impure thoughts. We gossip and lie about others and damage our witness. We pursue greed and materialism and fail to pursue the path of Christ. In our striving for holiness, we often come face to face with the darkness and sin of our humanity.
“Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) When we feel our humanity overwhelming us and we feel as if all hope is fading, we need to remember what Paul deeply knew. We have the victory thru Christ. As we pursue holiness, we will suffer the effects of our sin, but we have the ultimate victory because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. As we strive to follow Jesus, His grace covers us and picks us up when our steps falter and we fall down. Ultimately, the holiness of Christ will supersede our humanity and we will experience eternity with Jesus forever.
If you’re struggling in your walk with Christ, don’t forget that His holiness trumps our humanity. His grace is sufficient for us. As we pursue holiness and seek to walk as Jesus did, his love for us and his amazing grace will sustain us. There will always be a tension between holiness and humanity. Keep your eyes upon Jesus and let him lead you where you need to be and let his grace give you comfort and hope. Remember what Paul knew all too well. We have the victory thru Christ. He makes all the difference for us.