Schizophrenic Faith

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, June 13, 2015 2 comments

by Nathan Buck

Who hasn't struggled with doing the right thing? As human beings, we know intimately the struggle of right and wrong, good vs. evil, and selfless vs. selfish choices. We wrestle with it daily, in almost every decision - or at least, we should.

Our selfish desires and motives are powerful, like I mentioned in last week's blog post. They can feel overwhelming and we can feel trapped by how strong they are. In Romans 7:15-25, Paul continues his reflection on this daily struggle we face. Read the passage carefully. I am sure we all can identify with how he describes his struggle to do good.

Look at verse 24. Notice what he says there: "Wretched man that I am, who will release me from this body of death?" This statement is a powerful picture we may not recognize. I heard a number of years ago that the Romans had a form of execution where they would take a condemned person and strap a dead body to them. They would face the dead person away from the guilty person's body, and then tie them back-to-back. Wrists, legs, torso, neck, and head would be bound together as tightly as possible without constricting blood flow in the living person. The goal was to have the living person still be able to move and walk somewhat normally, and have the corpse move with them without their skin having any separation.

As if having a dead body tied to you was not physical (and mental) torture enough, the real torture was far more insidious and deadly. The corpse would eventually begin to decay. As the maggots and worms began to eat the flesh of the corpse, they would easily make their way into the flesh of the living person. Gradually, they would destroy the body of the living person, and they too would die an agonizing death.

This is a gruesome picture, and I am sure this kind of punishment was used for serious crimes against Rome. But Paul uses it as a graphic reality check for our struggle with sin. Apart from God we stand condemned by our own willfulness, and if we pursue our own path we are bound for destruction, just like the Roman criminal strapped to a dead body.

Even after we accept a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we can still feel stuck in that way of living. Every time we struggle to do good, it is like evil selfish desires are right there, strapped to us, and destroying everything from within our own hands and feet. Even when we try to do good, somehow an element of pride and selfishness worms it's way into the situation.

But through Jesus' sacrifice there is a rescue and a freedom. There is one specific "key," if you will, that unchains us from the corpse of our selfish desires and sinful behavior. We will discuss that next week.

For now, I simply want to invite you to be aware of the struggle between evil and good, selfish vs. selfless, as we make each decision during the day. I want to encourage you to not let ANY thought or choice you have be on "automatic pilot." Before you make any decisions today, or any day this week, look ruthlessly at your own motives. And deliberately try to choose against your own self-interest - especially when it could be an opportunity to serve or help someone else.

See how you do. Journal about what you learn. Take note and look at when and why you fail. There is hope. Come back next week to gain more insight for the journey ahead.

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Unknown said...

Sorry, but when I investigated the subject this was the only article I could find with any historical context; I couldn't find any records of this punishment being used under Roman law. The only reference I found was something Vergil wrote about an evil, semi-mythical pre-Roman king.

Unknown said...

Thanks Jamie for the insights. I suspecteD there is debate about the reality of the practice. That is why I couched it in, "I heard that..." I have heard and seen it perpetuated in commentaries. There is some evidence it did, and some evidence it may not have occured. Either way, Paul's reality check for us to not ignore the struggle, stands on its own.

To accomodate this possibly being mythos, please insert, "it has been said," "the Romans may have," and "Paul could have been..." in the appropriate places. :-) But do not ignore the need to see the struggle to be just as deadly and necessary to resolve in relationship with Jesus.