"The Good That I Would" ... I Can Do!

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Expressing God, Paul, Personal Growth and Progress

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do,” wrote Paul to the Romans (Rom 7:19 KJV).  Or, as the NLT has it: “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”

Many of us can relate to this statement. We may know intellectually what we should do, but in a weak or tense moment, we find ourselves acting in a way contrary to our desires or knowledge. We eat the dessert we know we shouldn’t; we contradict our spouse when we want to be supportive; we yell at our child when we want to empathize and speak gently.

So what keeps us from doing what we know is right? Paul argues that fleshly thinking—allowing ourselves to be dominated or controlled by sin—is the problem (Rom 8:5). While many think of sin as doing some evil thing, sin also (and probably more correctly) means miss, missing the mark, a mistake, deviation from purpose. So sin is not something that resides within us. It is an action. We’re not bad at heart. There is nothing evil deep down inside of us. We don’t have to go on a witch hunt or accuse or condemn ourselves for missing the mark. Why not?

Paul affirms that “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (8:1 NLT). In fact, Paul gives us the antidote, the healing power that will enable us to achieve our purpose, live our lives fully and beautifully, doing what God intends us to do:

But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace … you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit…. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do…. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children…. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. (Rom 8:6, 9, 12, 14, 15, 17 NLT).

So let’s rejoice! Let’s be grateful for our God-given, Spirit-led identity. Let’s not ruminate over mistakes or get caught up in a miss-understanding of our relationship with God. If we think that we have to solve our problems all by ourselves, and believe that we’re personally responsible for everything, and forget that the Holy Spirit controls us, we could really feel hopeless and do a lot of the evil that we are trying to avoid. We would mistakenly believe that we’re on our own without God, that we’re separate.

But we’re not. Paul is pretty clear about that. We’re God’s children, God’s heirs. As such, Paul insists that we “have no obligation”—we’re under no theory, sentence, or edict—to listen to or obey a sinful, or mistaken, view of ourselves or others. We are under no orders to do what’s wrong. Rather, we have been blessed by God, Spirit. And anything that might keep us from doing good is a decoy, trying to get us to think that we have a nature that is unlike God’s. And such a view simply has to yield to the power of Christly love.

Our job is to accept who we are, God’s child, to accept the Christ in our hearts. For knowing that we are, deep down, controlled and governed by the spirit of the Christ enables us to act with the Christ-Spirit, to do the good that we desire to do. When we are sure who we are, when we know our purpose is to glorify God, then nothing can knock us off track.

But when there are those times when we sin—make a mistake, forget who we are—we can turn to our Parent, God, who always lovingly reminds us of our heritage. If there’s anything we need to think or do differently, God’s love will reveal it to us, and the Christ will show us the way to overcome the fleshly impulse. Then we do the good we so wish to do, and that good blesses all those around us.