So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Romans 7:21-25a – July 4, 2012)
Occasional there are interesting coincidences between the Daily Office Lectionary lessons which we read following the “common of time” and whatever celebration we may encounter on the “common of saints” or the secular calendar. Today is American Independence Day, when the citizens of the United States commemorate gaining their freedom of the tyranny of the 18th Century British monarchy, and in the lessons today we find Paul writing about freedom from the tyranny of compulsive sin. ~ “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,” he writes earlier in the lesson (v. 15). For many of people this is a daily experience; many battle with addictions and compulsive behaviors that they do not want – alcoholism, sexual addiction, eating disorders, and the list could go on. Paul here suggests that this is the human condition, that we all suffer this “slavery” to behaviors we’d rather not be doing, to habits of action or thought that are harmful to ourselves, to others, or to our relationships. ~ My “habit” is, to put it bluntly, laziness – that’s as good a term for it as any – the theological term for it is “acedia” which one of the Desert Mothers, Amma Theodora, said is characterized by weakness in the knees and pain in the limbs. That’s it, for sure! ~ I know that exercise and physical activity is good for me; I know that I feel better after I get up and move about, take a walk, do some yard work, build a wall. But I don’t do it. It’s the getting up that is the issue; it’s so much easier to just sit here and play around on the internet! ~ Yesterday, I took a walk to the local school and back; it’s not far, only about a mile. Today, I plan to do the same. Wretched man that I am, I’m going to do it. Today, I declare my independence from acedia, from laziness, from the “sin that dwells within me!” God in Christ help me!
Fr. Funston is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.
(Note: The illustration accompanying this post is by Bulgarian artist Desislav Gechev; it links to an article about Mr. Gechev’s work.)