By Michael Fitzpatrick

A Reading from Romans 7:13-25

13 Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

Meditation

There are few passages in scripture I personally relate to more. Sometimes life is a daily battle between my “Dr. Jekyll” self and my “Mr. Hyde” self. Those of us who have struggled with addictions know even more viscerally what it is like to be mentally telling yourself, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” and yet find yourself engaging in activities you know are harmful to yourself and others. Leaving aside the critical controversies surrounding whether St. Paul is speaking of his pre-conversion or post-conversion experience, I can say confidently that I experience the battle of “not doing the good I want to do, but doing the evil I do not want to do” both before and after my own coming to Christ.

But surely this is puzzling. I mean, if Christ made a radical difference in our lives, winning the victory over sin, why is it that sin still has such a hold on our attempts to follow Christ faithfully? Why is it that sin infects the Church and divides us by schism from being one body serving one Lord, if Christ has conquered all? Intellectually, I know the theological response, that St. Paul is articulating both the now and the not yet when he cries out, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

But, as someone still fighting against my fleshly nature, I can’t help but wonder, how much deliverance now and how much not yet? It is in the now that sin living in me causes me to do what I do not want to do. The honest confession is that I simply don’t know why Christ’s deliverance has not rescued me from the full power of my sin nature. Where I hold hope is that I have nowhere else to turn. Even if I am still yearning for the not yet, I am confident that there is no deliverance in the now apart from the God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. So I continue to pray for deliverance, even as I believe I am already delivered.

Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Awgu / Aninri (Church of Nigeria)
The Diocese of Washington