Friday, December 7, 2007

Wretched Man That He Is

During my study time this morning, it occurred to me that despite a) writing about sin constantly and b) writing about sin mostly from prison, I couldn't think of one instance of Paul referring to his captors, oppressors, persecutors, torturers, or future executioners as sinning against him.

Could that be right, I thought? I used Bible Gateway to look up every one of Paul's references to sin.
He never mentions being sinned against in reference to the authorities imprisoning him. (In fact, he never really mentions being sinned against. The situation referenced in 2 Corinthians 2 comes close, but Paul's essentially saying the troublesome man hasn't really sinned against him, but against his brothers and sisters in the Corinthian church.)

Contrast not just Paul's attitude about sin with our attitude about sin, but Paul's circumstances compared to ours , and what is the result?
When we think about sin, we most often think of the sin of somebody else. What someone has done or is doing to me. We struggle with forgiving others because we always reckon others' sins against us as greater than our sin against God.

Not so Paul. Stripped of freedom and on a journey to martyrdom, he wrestles with his own sin, not that of his oppressors. He sits rotting in jail awaiting death and doesn't write pleas for justice or pity. The sin that angers him, upsets him, overwhelms him is his own.

Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from my self-righteousness?


Bob said...

Wow, this is one of those insights that makes you smack your forehead with the heal of your palm and say, "Why hadn't I ever noticed that?"

Anyway, I'm so glad you did notice it. And that you shared it, too.

Brian in Fresno said...

I second what Bob said, Jared! Well done and thank you.

Bill said...

Great insight. . .

Although I always chuckle a bit at the plight of poor Alexander the Coppersmith, who is one guy Paul did call out (and enshrined forever in Scripture)

Jared said...

Ah, you're right.

But he does follow that with the Lord will repay him, as if he's not worried about it. And then says about those in the church who did not defend him, that he hopes it will not be held against them. He certainly doesn't seem to take any of it personally.

So even in those mild(?) namechecks, Paul's forgiving spirit is remarkable.