Tag Archives: Romans 6

90 M.P.H. Down a Dead End Street

Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
Romans 6:19 (NIV)

It is one of those moments in life that is indelibly etched in my memory. Madison was about six years old or so and was sitting next to me as I shuffled through some new photographs that I’d just picked up from being developed (before digital cameras, we had to take rolls of film to get developed and wait for them). There was a photograph of me in the stack and Madison picked it up and held it up with a loud giggle. “Look,” she said. “It’s FAT DADDY!”

Ugh.

Throughout this life journey I have warred with my natural human appetites like every other human being on the face of the planet. I have lost many battles along the way. As a child I was exposed to pornography, and it secretly fed the seemingly insatiable cravings of a young man’s sexual appetite for many years. As a young husband and father trying hard to suppress and control my sexual appetites, I began feeding a different appetite. This time it was my craving for food and for sweets in particular. The result was Fat Daddy.

Through my battles with personal appetites I’ve experienced the reality that the pleasure from indulging my appetites is subject to the law of diminishing returns. I’ve observed this to be true no matter which appetite I indulge: my taste buds, my sex glands, my adrenaline glands, my need for security, my desire to control, my need to be loved, or any other appetite known to humanity.

I start with a craving. I indulge that craving and I feel a burst of pleasure. My craving is satiated for a moment. Slowly and subtly, the law of diminishing returns set in. What was such a blissfully guilty pleasure for a moment now feels, well, normal. My natural craving ups the ante. My brain and spirit collude to agree that if a little guilty pleasure didn’t do that much harm, then just a little more can’t be that bad for me. This cycle slowly repeats itself until I find myself way down the road in a place I never expected, nor wanted, to be experiencing really negative consequences for myself and the ones I most love in the world.

This is the very thing that Paul is addressing in today’s chapter of his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome. He uses language and an analogy that all of his readers could understand. Slavery was a common, everyday reality in the world at that time. It was an essential part of the economy in the Roman Empire. There were even “white collar” slaves as former soldiers, physicians, and accountants were often slaves. One could even offer oneself to any number of slave positions in order to have work and the security of basic needs met. All you had to do is give up your freedom and subject yourself to being the controlled property of another. Of course this included your master’s legal right to punish you, torture you, sexually exploit you and summarily execute you at will. A person offering themselves into slavery would end up in very different circumstances depending on the master to whom they offered themselves.

Now Paul tells his readers “you’ve offered yourselves as slaves to sin and to ever increasing wickedness.” There’s the feeding of natural appetites and it’s law of diminishing returns that I have experienced multiple times with very different appetites. Every person I’ve ever known who has followed the path of indulgence and addiction will also tell you that they ended up enslaved to their appetite(s). One of my favorite lyrics is from Bob Dylan describing a person following their amorous appetites into a marital affair:

I took you home from a party and we kissed in fun
A few stolen kisses and no harm was done
Instead of stopping when we could we went right on
Till suddenly we found that the brakes were gone.

You belong to someone else, and I do too
It’s just crazy bein’ here with you
As a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat
Going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street
Ninety miles an hour down a dead end street.

There is “the cycle” speeding me down the road to a place I never expected, nor wanted, where I will experience really painful consequences for myself and the ones I most love in the world.

Paul now urges me to make a different choice. He urges me to offer myself to God to be controlled by righteousness which leads to increasing measures of Life.

This morning in the quiet I can’t help but find myself looking back with regret at the foolish ways I have repeatedly “offered myself’ to my appetites along my life journey, and the dead end streets where I crashed. But, it doesn’t end there. I am also looking back at the crash sites where there stands one of those little wooden crosses to mark the spot. This cross marks the place where I followed Paul’s words from today’s chapter: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

To what, or to whom, am I offering myself?

Featured photo courtesy of Bob Dass via Flickr

A Step of Faith Off the Flotsam

Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
Romans 6:19 (NIV)

There is movement to life. Swift is the current of the river of life even when we feel relatively stationary. Good Dr. Einstein opened our minds to this reality in his theory of relativity. I sit on an airplane feeling inert and motionless while I am actually flying through the air at hundreds of miles an hour.  So I may feel “stuck” in life while day by day the river of life carries me swiftly toward my ultimate destination.

This morning as I read the words above from Paul’s letter to the Romans, I was taken back to my dark years. Having isolated a part of my heart and life from all others, I “offered myself” to impurity. In my secret isolation, I did not perceive how swiftly the river of life carried me onward. It was as if I had hidden myself in a dark, windowless capsule floating heedlessly in life’s river. Nor did I perceive how my impurity “ever increased” until existence inside my dark cocoon became unmanageable chaos. Things were shriveling up and dying inside and out. Something had to change.

I opened the airtight seal on my dark capsule and invited Light in. I could then see enough to claw my way out and on top of my floating chamber. Looking around and getting my bearings, I began using anything I could find as a rudder to begin steering myself in a new direction.

Then I looked up and saw Jesus walking on the water just a ways off to one side. He reached out His hand and smiled. “Come with me,” he said. I looked at the running water between us and stared. I looked back at Him. “Don’t be afraid,” he said his hand still outstretched.

I stepped off the flotsam of my poor choices and reached out to offer my hand to Jesus…

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featured image from film short Flotsam by the Zellner Bros.

Chapter-a-Day Romans 6

So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. Romans 6:15 (MSG)

While I was in college, my roommate and I were asked to read a couple of patriotic pieces at a Veteran’s Day event. We arrived that morning at the VFW Hall. There was still plenty of time before the bus was to take us to the event and we were invited to sit down and enjoy the company of the many old soldiers who packed the hall.

I’ll never forget that morning as I listened to these grandfathers share their experiences of war. I will always remember the look in their eyes as they spoke of their brothers-in-arms who never made it back. Etched in my memory forever are the tears of one elderly soldier who sat on the bus and silently wept as his mind relived some distant memory.

That morning, this snot-nosed college boy put faces to my freedom. As I sat in the VFW hall and on that bus with those men and heard their stories, it finally clicked in a way it never had before. My freedom wasn’t free. It was bought with lives of men and women who sacrificed their lives so that I could enjoy mine in freedom and peace.

I find it an apt parallel to the Kingdom of God.  We are no longer shackled to our sinful appetites. We are graciously forgiven of the sin that had us on death row, and have been freed from our imprisonment. But our freedom wasn’t free. It cost God the life of His Son, Jesus, who gave Himself up for execution on our behalf.

Every time I use my freedom as a license to act disgracefully, I dishonor the One who died for that freedom.

Lord, have mercy on me.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and USCGpress