“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 in 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!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” – Romans 7: 22-25
A dog and his master are enjoying a warm summer day outdoors. The dog’s master is reclining in a hammock tethered between two trees, while the dog lies near his master beneath a shade tree upon the cool grass. Suddenly, out on the road that abuts the property a car roars by. The dog quickly rises out of instinct and races toward the speeding car. The master shouts his dog’s name and immediately the dog stops in his tracks and looks to his master. In a softer voice the master beckons him to return. The dog again looks toward the road wishing to answer the call of instinct but reluctantly returns to his master’s side after a sterner third call to return is delivered. As he again lies down in the cool grass, his master, knowing the potential danger to his pet that awaited in the road, with love and relief pats him on the head with the consoling words one would extend to another person with understanding: “It wasn’t worth the risk.”
In another town another dog is free to roam his yard not tethered by leash nor bound by a fence. There too a car roars down the road that runs by his master’s home. So unconfined and uncoupled by the absence of his master’s staying and saving command, the dog rushes out in pursuit of the speeding car as is his nature as well. There he meets his fate as he is caught up under the wheels of the car. He heard no master’s call that would have compelled him to obey, and also lacked disciplined training that could have avoided the tragedy that forever would deprive him of any further joyful summer days.
We too can relate to a loving master in God. We are drawn to the call of things that excite our desires and often find ourselves attached to them. We have the gift of prudence from God as a call and command to protect us from the things of this world that seem harmless at first, but as we foolishly return to them so often we seem incapable of doing without them. There in lies the danger of habits that enslave. They are as dangerous to our health in all ways, especially to our souls, as is chasing cars to our canine friends.
When a thing takes hold it will not release us no matter how hard is our effort. It is like a person who awakens to finds himself at the bottom of a well. He knows not how he got there, yet he can’t get out. His only hope of being freed is if someone comes along and helps him out. That someone is Christ Jesus; who provides the needed grace to separate us from the habits that stifle healthy growth in body, mind and soul. The power of grace, that strengthens us toward complete healing, is released when we make a continued effort to turn away from that which binds us and turn instead toward Christ who frees. The more that effort becomes habit, the stronger the grace. With time, patience and persistence the former undesirable beckoning is reduced to but a whisper.
Christ provides this grace through his unconditional love for us. An unconditional love that paradoxically requires a condition of obedience. Christ confirms this in saying: “If you love me you will do what I say;” and; “Many say to me, ‘lord, lord,’ yet don’t do what I say.”
No better example is there that shows that obedience pays off than the miracle at the wedding at Cana. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is told that the wine for the wedding guests is running out. Mary goes to her son Jesus and asks Him to help. He tells her, “What is this to me? My hour has not yet come.” She then tells the servants: “Do whatever he tells you.” They do and the water requested by Jesus is changed into wine. The guests all comment to the host that most would serve the choicest wine at the beginning of the wedding banquet, yet he has served it at the end when most would expect to be served the cheapest. The obedience given by the servants to Jesus has resulted in the best outcome.
We are all reluctant to obey. We believe we know what is best. Often we are not prudent in our thinking, but rather we are prideful. As with the unrestrained pooch in the second story, all does not end well. However, in the first story, the reluctant pet in his eventual obedience to his master’s call avoids disaster and remains in the comfort and security of his master’s loving embrace.
When God calls us from those pleasures that we find so difficult to resist, He is calling us to immeasurable joys of which we are yet unable to conceive.