Thursday, July 17, 2008

Romans 8:1-11 (NRSV)

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

I was a part of a Bible study thing called the FIRE Institute at one time in high school. It was a very intense multi-month study full of learning spiritual disciplines, fasting, scripture study, video watching, for which I quit freshman football (wasn’t too tough of a decision; I don’t think I was cut out for high school football…much more comfortable on stage) and made various other sacrifices. It was an overall good experience that helped gird up my fundamentalist attitudes of the time but that I am quite sure genuinely helped me grow.

One of the most challenging (but fulfilling) aspects of the experience was that we had to memorize Romans chapter eight, one of my favorite passages since that study. In fact, ten years later (it’s been 10 years since I was a freshman?), I can still get through the first half of the chapter without stuttering. But this is good stuff friends…

I’m always intrigued by what exactly Paul had in mind when talking about the law of sin and death. Is this some kind of original sin idea? Or is it just the result of humanity’s sinful nature, like a natural law? My lovely New Oxford Annotated Bible says that Paul, when speaking of the law of the Spirit of life and the law of sin and death is reffering not to “two different laws, but of God’s law experienced under two opposing dominions, of sin and of righteousness.” In that case, I suppose that Christ ushers in the death or collapse of the dominion of sin and death by bringing about the dominion of the Spirit of life. That makes sense in light of verse four, when Paul talks about those who “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

But would that imply that God set up a dominion of unrighteousness? Or was God’s righteousness simply corrupted by flesh, as in verse three? I need to read some gnostic interpretations of this…I could easily see how this could be fodder for the idea that the God of the Jews is actually an evil diety, Lord of the law of sin and death, while the God of Jesus is actually the God of the good stuff, of the Spirit of life.

Personally, when I think of a law weakened by the flesh, I think of my inability to live up to God’s righteousness on my own apart from Christ, who came “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in flesh, so that the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” I supposed the idea of separate dominions still works with this interpretation though; it’s a matter of which dominion we choose to walk under.

Having one’s mind set on the desires of the flesh ultimately leads to destruction according to Paul and creates a mind that is hostile to God and unable to submit to God’s law; BUT, the mind focused on the Spirit brings life and peace. I like life and peace a lot more than destruction. I need to spend more time in prayer and meditation, focusing my mind on the Spirit, finding peace.

I like to think of verse eleven as applying to living bodies, to the idea that God, through Christ, wants to give life to our mortal bodies, our bodies that are still alive. When people look at me, I want them to see someone who is truly alive. I struggled with that last week on mission trip; being tired and sick at the end didn’t help, but I was not a good demonstration of the vibrant life that Christ wants to give for my kids. I’m going to work on that, to find a way to still be me and be true to my personality, yet show that joyus life of Christ within.

Good stuff indeed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thematicaly Speaking

One of my biggest struggles in youth ministry is coming up with a theme for the fall and I’m not really sure why. I find it dificult to definitively decide what the entire purpose of Campbell’s youth ministry is going to be based on for a year. I inevitably stray or altogether forget about the theme by October anyway, but I understand the usefulness of a theme. It gives us all something to focus on, something to tie around. So here we go…hopefully I’ll be enlightened with something good…