I often wonder what I would share with someone who sincerely wanted to understand the essence of Christianity and the message of the Bible. It’s a very difficult task.
You can try to boil it down to just a few phrases, phrases that everyone knows and loves, but this is only the surface of what Christianity is.
I recently read Romans. This is a wonderful epistle written to an audience of two groups. One group has no foundation in anything like Christianity. The other group has their foundation in obedience to the laws of God. Both of them go astray.
Paul starts out by saying that everyone is born with an inherent belief in God. The problem arises when God is no longer acknowledged as people pursue wisdom and knowledge. When they fail to acknowledge God, their wisdom and knowledge becomes foolishness. It isn’t long until their minds are darkened and they are worshiping false gods that cannot speak or think or act or feel.
When they go down this path, God can’t protect them from themselves anymore, and so they are left to wallow in their sins and error, and you get pretty much what you find throughout the world. The world that Paul lived in had the Romans. If you want to understand what he was talking about, you should familiarize yourself with who the Romans really were and what they did.
Among the Romans lived the Jews. They had spread out throughout the empire, not just the neighboring areas. The Jews were generally very strict about keeping the Law of Moses, given to them through Moses by God. They knew as well as anyone else that no one could be perfectly obedient to that law, but they would struggle with it nonetheless.
The issue is what can you do when you fail to acknowledge God and his laws, and is it really any different than being incapable of keeping those laws? The answer is no. In reality, Paul lumped the Jews and the Romans into one group, and lumped himself in that group as well. We are all fallen from God’s good graces. None of us fully acknowledges God and none of us fully obeys his law, and so all of us are in a state of punishment according to that law.
What Paul uncovers next is difficult to read and understand. Let me try to explain one of his analogies. He says that if a woman is divorced from a man, is that man still in charge of her? According to both Jewish and Roman laws, no, the woman has no husband. Suppose she remarries. Is that considered adultery? Again, no it is not. The same is true if the husband dies and she is a widow.
Well, says Paul, consider the fact that by birth, you are “married” to God’s laws. When you cross that law, it punishes you, because you are bound to it. If you get divorced from that law and marry another, does that law have any effect on you? Or, if you are so severely punished that the law is dead to you, or rather, you are dead to the law, does it bind you any longer?
What he says next is simply this. You shouldn’t be trying to live life married to the law. It will never, ever work. Instead, turn to the Savior, who has already obeyed the law and offers a different deal. He’ll forgive you of all your sins if you will simply receive him.
The following bits are something every Christian struggles with. Having been saved by Christ, are we done? Are we supposed to keep sinning? Of course not. The difference is now, when we sin, we leave that sin behind and embrace Christ. We move forward and beyond our past rather than dwelling on it and letting it control us.
I think this is good advice for anyone. What is done is done. Forgive others, and let yourself be forgiven. Move forward with a clean slate, as if you were first married.