Romans 7:1-12

For the past couple of days, we’ve resisted the commercial, ‘Jesus paid your debt’, version of ‘saved’

Today, ‘hump-day’, midweek, Reconsider ‘law’ and ‘Torah’ with me.

Start with ‘jurisdiction’. As premiers meet in Edmonton this week, With or without First Nations chiefs, Canadians see federal/provincial jurisdictions in relief: For some things, in some places, they make the law. Urban local governments are closer rulers, Transnational trade treaties or international law, More distant…

This week, The Australian Green party lost a Senator. Exposed as a Canadian citizen, She was ineligible to rule Australia – The limits of dual citizenship.

Paul knew about this stuff: A Roman citizen, A rabbinically trained Jew subject to Torah, Arrested and jailed by local Greek authorities, He was subject to various rulers and laws,
And knew about overlapping jurisdictions, And their limits.

I’ve already suggested ‘umbrellas’, Or perhaps ‘safety nets’, As metaphors for ‘law’ Alternatives to chains of slavery. Some prefer ‘spheres’,  and imagine living in bubbles – and then go on to Venn diagrams, conceding overlapping spheres. We are used to rule by statute, The written decrees and regulations, Of the nation-state and its agencies.

We may be blind to common-law, The cumulative customs, ‘how we do things’, Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’

Occasionally, bigots point our religious law: Sharia law is just one example –  Rabbinic or ecclesiastical courts deal with divorce, Granting ‘gets’ or ‘anulments’ to permit remarriage. That’s hard for us to credence – 

Informally, every community has self-appointed ‘police’ Monitoring our norms and rules for living together. The only way out is to die!

Now, reread the first part of Romans 7. Matrimonial law applies and has jurisdiction over a wife.
If she has no living husband, the rules change.

In our culture, Try employment litigation – You follow the employer’s rules – Until the employment ends – Working for 2 masters will create conflicts.

Imagine joining a gang, or a Mafia clan – An alternate or parallel society, That provides both umbrella and safety net, And imposes internal norms and rules.

What if joining church, Becoming part of the body of Christ, Brought such ‘law’ with jurisdiction over you? What if that included sharing your stuff, And relying on others’ stuff?

Acts gives us one vision of early church sharing – Paul provides specific examples. If you don’t work, do you get to eat?  When you pay taxes to Canada, You are paying for military spending
What if you are pacifist, and don’t want your tax dollars weaponized?
Should there be a ‘peace tax’ alternative? The bills have been proposed, but not passed.

Generally, as a citizen in our society, You are contributing and complicit in lots of bad stuff,
The unjust consequences of our ‘way of the flesh’.

What if you would participate in an alternative society, Collectively bearing witness and serving other goods Your members, parts, weapons for good?

When a law names a sin, It tries to affirm a good and oppose an evil – But humans immediately can name a way to break the rule, A loophole, an exception – We twist the good into something bad
 
Does a law name and reveal morality? Or does it construct it? ‘Constructivism’ is a right-wing school of US jurisprudence. ‘Constructivism’ is a left-wing school of pedagogy. ‘Constructivism’ is a liberal first-world school of theology. We can use the same terms, and mean different things, But we all ‘construe’ what’s right and wrong.

We’ll have to get past ‘the letter of the law,’ We’ll need to find a shared ‘spirit of the law.’ That’s my 500 words for the day…

What word do you have for our hearts? O God, give us ears to hear.  Amen
 

1 You shouldn't have any trouble understanding this, friends, for you know all the ins and outs of the law – how it works and how its power touches only the living.

2 For instance,  a wife is legally tied to her husband while he lives, but if he dies, she's free.

3 If she lives with another man while her husband is living,  she's obviously an adulteress. 

But if he dies, she is quite free to marry another man in good conscience, with no one's disapproval.

4 So, my friends, this is something like
what has taken place with you.  When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, 
leaving you free to "marry" a resurrection life and bear "offspring" of faith for God.

5 For as long as we lived that old way of life,
 doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots
as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious.  In the end, all we had to show for it  was miscarriages and stillbirths.

6 But now that we're no longer shackled  to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we're free to live a new life
in the freedom of God.

7 But I can hear you say,  "If the law code was as bad as all that, it's no better than sin itself." 

That's certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function.  Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. 

Apart from the succinct, surgical command,
"You shall not covet," I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue  and ruined my life with it.

8 Don't you remember how it was?  I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of "forbidden fruit" out of it. The law code,  instead of being used to guide me, 
was used to seduce me.  Without all the paraphernalia of the law code,  sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, 

9 and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it.

10 The very command that was supposed to guide me into life  was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong.

11 So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead.

12 But the law code itself is God's good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.

1 Or do ye not know, brothers-and-sisters, - for I speak to those
who know the Torah – that the law has authority over a human being
[only] for as long as one lives? 

 2[For example,] a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he is alive.  But if the husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.  

3 So, then, if while her husband is living she becomes another man’s, she will be called an adulteress,  but if the husband dies, she is free from the law [concerning the husband] so that she is not an adulteress if she becomes another man’s. 

4 Therefore, brothers-and-sisters, also ye have been put to death to the law through the community of Christ, in order that ye might become another’s, his who has been raised from among the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

5 For when we were [living] in the flesh, Sin’s sad consequences which are through the law
were active in our members to bear fruit for death.  

6 But now we have been released from the law of Death by which we have been held captive, so that we might serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the letter.

7 What then shall we say?  Is the law sin?  Of course not!  But I [Adam] would not have come to experience Sin except through the law.  For I would not have known desire if the law did not say: “Thou shalt not desire.”  

8 But Sin found an occasion, ‘deceived me’ through the commandment and through it killed me.  

12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.