What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Come with me to the land of my nightmares. Marmite is discovered to be a wonder-food. (If you like Marmite, pretend with me that you don’t.) More than just packed with B-vitamins, Marmite heals all ills, ends war, solves global warming and even cures the common cold! Eat Marmite and I’ll never die! Amazing – but I hate it. A law is passed that everyone must eat Marmite every day. Blergh. But it’s the law, so I grudgingly shove down the minimum I can get away with and wash away the taste with chocolate.
And then the law is repealed! Huzzah! I am free. No more Marmite for me! But freedom from Marmite means freedom from its life-giving benefits. The law was designed to bring life, and what I think of as my freedom is actually killing me! Not because anyone is making me die, that’s just how it is without Marmite.
Sigh. If only Marmite were chocolate! If chocolate were the cure-all, which by law I had to eat every day, I’d happily obey. If the law were repealed, I’d still eat, because that law would be in my heart.
That is what God has done for us in Jesus. The Law that was written on stone and made us aware of sin, leading to death, is now written on our hearts and leads to life. Marmite becomes chocolate and we are “obedient from the heart”. We are free from the Law, (Paul poses the question), so should we now abandon it? “No way!” he exclaims. The gift of God is the miracle of turning Marmite into chocolate – putting the law in our hearts so that we obey from love, not duty, and gladly follow the path to eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To think about: Does it matter what we do, since we are not under law but under grace? Why?
Generous God, you redeem us from the debts that we have earned, and give us freely what we have not worked for.
You rescue us from the road to destruction, and set our feet on the path to life.
You free us from the chains that we ourselves have forged, and adopt us into your family as beloved children.
Blessed be your name forever. Amen
Fay Rowland, graduate student, Wesley House Cambridge, St Botolphs, Northants