The teacher smiled as she heard the response from Jeffrey, her 4 year old pre-school student. She had told the children that it was “clean up time” and then encouraged a small group of children to put the blocks on the shelves where they belonged. She particularly noticed this one little friend who looked at her and then looked down at the roadway he had carefully built. As she knelt down to have eye contact with him, he told her, “The good side of me says ’Yes, I will help to do this job.’ The bad side of me says, ‘No, I will not help this time.’” As a smile crossed both of their faces, he bent over and together they finished the job.
Isn’t this, in a very simplistic way, the struggle that all of us have throughout our journey? While we are no longer slaves to our sinful nature, for reasons that only God completely understands, He did not completely remove our tendency to go back to our former habits, our selfish ways, and our sinful desires. We so easily become distracted by old ways of thinking and by our longing for immediate satisfaction. Paul wants the Romans to know that they are not alone in these dilemmas. He has them, too. He also wants them to grasp some of the reasons we do not want to continue to live as if these old passions still had control of our hearts and minds. When we belong to Christ, we have the option to “serve Him in the new way of the Spirit.” There’s a new kind of living that God invites us to choose. We can walk away from “the bad side of our inclinations.”
Just as the little boy had the option of pleasing his teacher or not, we, too, have the freedom to make choices. Choices that, according to Paul, will either “bear fruit for God or bear fruit for death”. (Romans 7: 4 – 5) That’s a huge incentive to consider carefully both our major decisions and our momentary responses.