You are a good person. But I’ll bet there are times when some of the things you think and do don’t quite meet up with Mother Teresa’s standards. As a matter of fact, there are likely times when you wonder where such negative thoughts come from or why you continue to do some of the things you do. When frustrated or tired, do you find that your “goodness” temporarily gives way to the “badness” that haunts you? Is this normal or are you “going to hell in a handbasket”?
Let’s listen in to what the apostle Paul had to say to the people in Rome who were “loved by God and called to be his holy people”:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So, I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25 NIV)
Yes, this craziness is normal! It is a conversation that we all have with ourselves from time to time. The only thing that is strange is that Paul, a former Pharisee’s Pharisee and a leader in the early Christian church, should admit it!
The Human Condition
In those few words, Paul provides clues to the way of the human condition and what we can do about it:
- Admit to yourself that although you may want to do good things, you also struggle with thinking about and doing the things that you hate.
- Admit to yourself that although you nurture your love of God and his ways that less holy desires also live within you and at times express themselves.
- Accept that you are not “Holy” on your own merits, and that you need God’s help.
- Accept that you can never be “Holy” on your merits, no matter how hard you try.
- Be thankful with the understanding that this is the best anyone can do.
- Be thankful that your faith and your understanding allow you to better understand and help all people.
- Apply what you know to deepen the way you feel God’s love.
- Share what you know and listen to others to grow God’s love.
- Nurture your need for God’s love by discovering and learning from the mistakes you make every day.
- Be at peace as this defines doing your very best…and that this is enough.