This past week, there was "the fight of the century" in boxing, a bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao. I heard many commentators in the media say that watching and paying to watch the fight was supporting Mayweather's domestic violence and misogynistic attitude towards women. The commentators with this perspective were encouraging people to not watch the fight, and not give money to support that. The funny thing is, WE DO THAT ALL THE TIME. We unkowningly support things we disagree with by how we operate as consumers. We even KNOWINGLY support things we disagree with in the name of convenience and comfort. We do things we don't really want to do, which sounds a lot like a scripture passage.
Romans 7 has always been an impactful passage of scripture for me. It reminds me that biblical heroes like Paul had similar struggles to mine. He obviously had a habit of doing things he really didn’t want to do. He says it’s not really him that does it, but “sin that lives within me.” What does Paul mean by that phrase? I'm not sure we can totally decipher exactly what he meant when he wrote it (or had it written), but I think I have an idea what it could mean for us today as USAmerican Christians.
As I try to live my life as a follower of Christ, I encounter a huge problem that I can’t escape. Much like the one Paul describes in Romans 7 saying, “Who will save me from this body of death?” Here's the issue: the taxes I pay to the government support things and pay for activities that I don't agree with. Also, many of the products I buy fund companies, directly or indirectly, that have policies and activities I don't agree with. In addition, my parents and the culture I live in, have influenced, shaped and formed, my thinking and habits to perpetually do things in ways that benefit oppressive systems--sin. Much of this happens without much active participation on my part. These types of issues are almost inescapable.
The bits and pieces of "Empire" (read as "oppressive systems") that pervade my thinking and living are "dwelling within" me. I cannot escape where my money goes when I pay taxes or buy certain goods. I can try, but it is near impossible to completely eradicate it. "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24).
Paul's answer, "Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ." He then goes on to write Romans 8, speaking of "Life in the Spirit." God delivers us from the oppressive systems, even though we still participate with and benefit from them. We are to live "Life in the Spirit" instead of "in the flesh." I'm proposing that "life in the flesh" and "the sin that lives within me" are not only the temptations we face on a personal level, but the ways our culture/society has shaped us into patterns of behaving and thinking that are contrary to the Kingdom of God. What then, are we to do?
Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive in Christ.
Surrender your power to the power of Christ.
One day, the Kingdom of God will be fully embodied on earth. It has already begun in Christ and The Church.
The Empire employs a divide and conquer strategy, keeping us focused on arguing and fighting each other instead of the systems of control that oppress us: white vs. black, rich vs. poor, Christian vs. Muslim, gay vs. straight, red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican, etc. Anything to keep the machine of oppression going under our noses. Or, The Empire keeps us focused on anything but its oppressive ways. Perhaps interpreting scripture to keep you focused on your personal temptations, and accusing you. This is why reading Romans 7 with this slight difference is eye-opening.
Is the U.S.A. a bad evil empire? No, not completely. Is the U.S.A. a perfect country? No, not completely. There are a lot of good things about our country, and I'm glad I live here. We may even be the least of evils, a place that is still full of hope for those seeking a better life. But don't be fooled to thinking that we've reached the promised land. Corruption is rampant. Who/what is to blame? Greed, Hubris, Abuse of Power, Selfishness, etc.
But the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-Control.
[There are a couple of things that have converged to make me think about this scripture in terms that are political rather than spiritual. In the past, I always thought of it as a spiritual-only type of statement, but it’s much more real and tangible and holistic than that. I recently heard premiere Old Testament Scholar Dr. Walter Brueggemann speak about ideas from his books Out of Babylon and The Prophetic Imagination. The host of the lectures was Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO, whose pastor, Brian Zahnd, also spoke. I recently read Brian’s book, A Farewell to Mars. Both Brueggemann and Zahnd point out the political nature of the New Testament. That is a document portraying a rebellion against the principalities and powers of oppression The Roman Empire (and the Hebrew Bible would contain stuff characterized as Babylon). Also, I am preaching through the first chapters of the Book of Acts, which basically tells the story of the beginnings of this rebellion against the principalities and powers. All of these different things caused me to reflect differently on this passage.]
I am a Software Developer, a career shift made in 2018. So far, I have experience with C# .Net and Angular. I continue to let curiosity lead me into learning new technologies. I plan to share what I learn along the way about technology and personal/career life. Previously, my vocation was United Methodist pastor. So in addition to coding, I'll share about theology, the Church and The Bible. I also enjoy running, music, and I'm a deeply committed father and husband. Maybe my experiences will help you. I know it helps me to share.