“For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. … I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Romans 7:19+21/KJV).
This is St. Paul speaking about human limitations in doing good things. Of course, he used to measure himself by high ethical standards he had learned from the Old Testament.
You may recall that some of the Ten Commandments are concerned with our relationship towards God. Others deal with how we treat our fellow men.
In the Old Testament, we often read that the Israelites tended to depart from worshipping God. They began to do things in the way the other (heathen) peoples around them used to do.
In life, you often have to adapt to others. Yet God has given certain guidelines as to things a believer ought to avoid.
Heathen people were worshipping various kinds of gods. Their ritual practices at times did involve cruel deeds. Many of them used to pursue sexual practices that were discouraged by God’s commandments.
The God of Israel did desire purity in attitudes towards him and towards others. This is summed up in the commandments that we should love God with all our heart and with all our strength and that we should love our neighbours.
God wanted his people to think about His commandments and about their own behaviours. He wanted them to be honest about their failures. He gave them some guidelines as to how they were to approach Him having done something wrong.
The bible calls such failures: sin and sinfulness. You might perceive various kinds of shortcomings:
• You intended to do the right thing, but somehow you did not put it into actual practice.
• You intellectually studied God’s standards but did not think about your own behaviour.
• You did some good things but guided by selfish motives.
• You did some good deeds, but you also mistreated others.
• You neglected to do things you should have done.
• There may be failures you and I are not even aware of.
Moses and the prophets used to point out to the Israelites how they had departed from God’s standards. The apostle Paul here writes about human sinfulness and waywardness.
Such teaching might lead to despair. Yet God has provided a way out:
1. He invites us to confess our sins to him and to receive his forgiveness.
2. He gives us His Holy Spirit. Thus we receive a new drive and new strength to do that which is right.
In 1 Corinthians 12:31 and in chapter 13 Paul challenges us to pursue high spiritual goals. God is ready to give, as we seek him in prayer.