July 11, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Romans 8:1-2, 5-6 (NRSV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. . . . For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
For the context for this passage, read Romans 8:1-11.
In each of our lives, in our families and workplaces, in our public statements and private thoughts, we need to think through how we have participated in the fallen world of death and how we can seek out the redemptive world of the Spirit instead.
My grandfather died many years ago of cancer. In his last days, he was in hospice in his home. One day, shortly before he died, a visitor asked him, “Dr. Stanger, do you know where you are?”
“Chapter 8,” he replied. “Chapter 8.”
That was all he said, but we knew what he meant; the eighth chapter of Romans had long been one of his favorites, especially its triumphant final verses. In the lectionary I follow for these devotions, that beautiful passage does not show up until next week, but today’s reading lays important groundwork for Paul’s affirmation in Romans 8:26-39 that Christ is with him no matter what. And that groundwork begins with the very first sentence of our passage for today: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Our fallen world works according to the condemnatory law of sin and death and the flesh, as Paul goes on to explain in the next few verses. “Flesh” (sarx) here is a complex term that is not equal simply to the physical world and our physical bodies, though Christians have sometimes erroneously thought so. It is everything about us that sins, whether through a more “physical” sin such as lust or a more “spiritual” sin such as pride. It is the part of us, to hearken back to a previous devotion, that is attached to the devil and all his works and all his pomp.
And from all of this Jesus sets us free.
He sets us free from the sinful things we have done ourselves and are ashamed of, and from the sins that grow out of the sinful things others have done to us, and from the complex interplay of sin and death and flesh in all of our lives that enmeshes us in systems of sin. There is no catch. Paul could not be clearer: Jesus paid it all, as the old hymn says (and as Romans 8:3-4 explains in detail).
Our most proper response to the grace expressed in Romans 8:1-4 is the mission that Romans 8:5-6 gives us. We are not to set our mind on the things of the flesh. Only death lies that way. We are to set our mind on the things of the Spirit, and doing so will bring us life and peace beyond our wild imaginings.
In the turbulent times that face us now, this is a good reminder and an essential truth. In one of the confession prayers from my tradition, we repent of “the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” In each of our lives, in our families and workplaces, in our public statements and private thoughts, we need to think through how we have participated in the fallen world of death and how we can seek out the redemptive world of the Spirit instead.
Because, truth be told, Jesus is already seeking us. In that marvelous passage that my grandfather was thinking of in his last moments, Jesus stands ready to make us more than conquerors over that fallen world, if we but let him conquer the sin in and around us:
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?. . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).
What evil enslaves you?
What evil have you done?
What evil has been done on your behalf?
With your small group or a wise friend, reflect on how you can best express your repentance. Then do something you have reflected on.
Lord Jesus, keep us in Chapter 8. Help us remember that you paid it all; there is no condemnation in you, and when we confess our sin and receive your forgiveness we are given freedom for life in the Spirit. Help us walk in the Spirit’s life every day. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Walking in Newness of Life in the Workplace (Romans 6)
Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
Click here to view Jennifer’s profile.