It can be a little unnerving to hear Paul talking in terms of not being able to do the good that he wants to do. It’s usually others that he is taking to task for getting things wrong – whether it’s the ‘foolish Galatians’ or the Corinthians that he ‘does not commend’. Not only that, but he quite openly commands the Corinthians to ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’.
This is the man who said that if anyone had reason to be confident in the flesh, he had more. Yet, here Paul is saying that nothing good dwells in his flesh. This is clearly a heartfelt experience. The man who spends his whole life trying to live out his faith still struggles at times. He finds it impossible to practice what he preaches.
I, for one, am very glad to hear it, because that is the lived experience of anyone who preaches; indeed, of anyone who has the temerity to try to lead another in the ways of Christ, or even simply to walk the way for themselves. We keep getting things wrong.
Paul has two things to say to us, when we are struggling to walk the way. The first is that the reason that we find it so difficult is that ‘sin dwells within’ us. In other words, we’re never going to get it right all the time, so we should not despair. It’s ultimately not entirely our fault. (We could add: so long as we do our best!)
Secondly, Paul says, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord’. That’s because (as we’ll hear tomorrow) Jesus has dealt with sin and we will not ultimately be condemned.
So let’s carry on doing our best to walk the way, in the full knowledge that we are asking the impossible of ourselves, but that God has it covered, when we get things wrong.
Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord.