A tradition that has emerged every St Paddy’s day is for the wife to buy me a pack of Kilkenny Irish cream ale, to celebrate my Celtic heritage.
It’s a supposition mind you. I’ve no chain of birth certificates and so on to prove I’m part Irish, but I do find Riverdance irresistible.
It’s been a muted St Paddy’s this year. Kilkenny sold out, but that is the least of our problems. The time between St Paddy’s day and Easter has become all about Covid-19.
A lot of people on social media are apologising to 2019 for all the things they said about it when considering what 2020 is shaping up to be.
At the moment, the year 2020 seems to fit hand-in-glove with the maxim of Murphy’s law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Put more gently, and in another way, you will never find a lost article until you buy a replacement.
Or, matter will be damaged in direct proportion to it’s value. Or, you’ll never stub your toes, but the day you hurt one, you will continue to stub it even if you try to be careful.
Murphy’s law is more tongue-in-cheek than anything, however there are recognisable laws that operate consistently because of human nature.
Parkinson’s law holds that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. So, essentially no matter what an employer does to implement a process or system to get work done faster, that improved process or system creates more work to handle. That’s why there’s always so much work to do without enough time.
Student syndrome identifies a human behaviour where people leave things to the last minute. Seen most acutely in students who become experts at cramming right before an exam or assignment. This is apparently also true in the business world where tasks are deliberately not assigned too far in advance of a deadline. Productive panic is evidently better than procrastination.
I last wrote about Paul’s book of Romans back in November 2019. A lot has happened since then, and for the last few days – apart from this global pandemic – I’ve been thinking about the two laws that Paul writes about in Romans.
The law of sin and death.
And the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
In Romans 7, Paul is writing to remind us of the law of marriage. It is binding on the relationship between the husband and wife ‘until death…do part’.
“Death ends all obligations and contracts. A wife is no longer bound to her husband if he dies because death ends that contract. If her husband dies, she is free from that law.” In the same way, a Believer is freed from trying to please God through the law because he is – in a way – dead to it.
Paul writes that the law is good and it points to the standard of how we ought to live. But we could never abide by it. The law of sin and death basically boils down to the law being vulnerable to sin using it.
Paul writes that he once was ‘innocent’ of coveting (enviously desiring what someone else had) but when he was exposed to the law that said not to covet, that sinful desire used the law to channel sin into that forbidden activity.
Its not that Paul had never coveted before, but when he became aware of the law against coveting, his sinful nature amplified the desire for the forbidden. It is sinful to break the law of God. It’s doubly sinful of sin to use God’s law to break God’s law.
You may be able to imagine Paul becoming aware of his sinfulness in the light of the law with the same blushing realisation of Adam and Eve realising what they had done. But that realisation didn’t change Adam or Paul. Their desire for the forbidden became more acute.
The law of sin and death.
The law was intended to be good, and it is good, however the flaw is not in the commandment but in man’s sinful nature. It’s entirely perverse that sin could use something good (the law) and use it to stimulate rebellion. The Greek word Paul uses when describing sin seizing the opportunity evokes the idea of sin establishing a beachhead on our territory, using it as a fulcrum from which to launch ever bolder attacks.
The law of sin and death is that we could never follow God’s law. We tripped up. Every time. Sin leads to death. Paul writes that Christians should no longer live that way.
The law can give us the standard to follow, but it could never empower our flesh to be changed and follow it.
The law of the Spirit who gives life (in Christ Jesus) has set us free from the law of sin and death.
This is what Paul was talking about when he described Believers who have ‘died to the law through the body of Christ’ and ‘now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit’ (Romans 7: 4, 6).
The key is ‘in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Not living by the flesh, but by the Spirit. It is a mystical and spiritual union between Believers and Christ:
Christ in Believers by his Holy Spirit.
Believers in Christ by faith.
I have discovered through experience that Paul’s description of the human being who tries to live by the law is accurate and frustrating. But I’m also relieved that being ‘in Christ’ isn’t a metric that I need to attain on a graph but a position I enjoy.