Jesus saves us even from our sinful selves
My 3-year-old son has some favorite words and phrases that he likes to say all the time. They include answering questions with just the word “giraffe” (context doesn’t really matter), he also makes a joke of any question that is asked of him by adding the phrase “on your head?” And the one thing he says to me specifically when I correct a behavior or tell him to stop doing something is “OK, mama.” But the catch is that he may or may not mean it. At 3 years old he already understands that he can appease me by just saying “OK, mama” whether he is going to change or not.
And who among us doesn’t do the same? Paul captured this human tendency in the Romans reading for tonight.
“I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Even when we strive to be good people, doing good, we can find ourselves slipping into doing exactly the things we don’t want to do. Sometimes that looks like saying one thing and doing another, sometimes it looks like inaction when action is required, sometimes it looks like deciding to do the exact opposite of what we know to be good for us or for others. Paul points to these things and says that is sin.
That is the sin that can control our lives. And God sent humanity the law to help correct us and guide us. To help us know what is good for us and life-giving for this world and our relationships in it. And yet, even following the 10 commandments day to day is not easy for us. We mess up; we let our jealous, lazy, broken selves review those laws and say “Ok, God.”, but we don’t really intend to change at all. We are sinners. Martin Luther recognized this deep desire to do good and follow the law and our inability to actually do it. Calling us sinners.
Battling with sin
We are in an ongoing battle with sin throughout our lives. And when it comes to faithfulness versus sin, there is no compromise. We can’t just pretend – God can see through that façade. Our inability to defeat sin on our own and our inability to follow the laws, these life-giving rules sent to us by God’s own self- well, it makes us ever more aware of our need for a Savior that’s for sure. Because we can’t do it on our own. We try and fail.
But the thing about this passage from Paul is that hope is not gone. Even if we feel broken, split apart by our never-ending struggle with sin, even then God sees us and loves us. You see, what Paul is talking about here isn’t only our identity as it has to do with our sinful nature. It is also about our sainthood.
Our amazing God saw our failure and forgave us. Our God sent Jesus into the world to change our identity. We are children of God, no longer defined by our sin, but defined by being loved by God. The struggle that Paul describes here is a situation that we have already had dealt with by Jesus Christ. We have already received the righteousness of God through his Son. We are sinners and we are saints. Even the smallest faith, the size of a mustard seed is all it takes to believe.
God offers us a gift – it is free, it is forever, we just have to say yes.
Is this the right time to talk about sin and our sinfulness?
Yes. Because we are in the middle of a troubling time. So many people are hurting. And there is a brokenness that is permeating our lives that is overwhelming. And as we move forward trying to figure out what life looks like in a pandemic world, with greater awareness for racial inequality, with greater appreciation for what life used to look like… we are still going to mess up. We are going to make bad decisions, even sinful ones. We are going to say to each other, “Ok, sure,” Whether we actually intend to change or not.
But in the midst of all of that. We are still loved, we are still saved. We are still saints. WE are still beloved children of God.
Paul says it well, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”