Sin and Desire

“14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Paul. Romans 7.

Paul acknowledges that ‘sin’ or desire is part of our nature as humans. He speaks of the Law which ‘condemns us’ and of Christ as rescuing us from the spiritual consequences of our breaking the Law. Paul’s analysis is realistic and insightful although (if you continue reading Romans) it is couched in terms of a partisan Christianity. What Paul is saying is that as biological beings we are subject to the laws of cause and effect, we function deterministically; however as spiritual beings we have free will. There is a contradiction, a conflict, between deterministic imperatives and the will to freedom from determinism so that Spirit can abide in its own nature. In Buddhism the road to freedom is the Middle Way, in Christianity the way is through Grace.

For some Christians the way of Grace is accepting the person of Jesus Christ for others (and myself though I do not call myself Christian or Buddhist) the way of Grace is through accepting the reality of forgiveness that Jesus taught and embodied. Jesus makes clear that forgiveness does not trump the Law but fulfils and completes it. If the Law is that you reap what you sow then sowing forgiveness must reap the same and Jesus is equally clear that we must give up condemnation of others.

Meditation and Forgiveness are the key spiritual practices that we must return to again and again. Condemning ourselves or others is counter productive. We are what we are on the material level, this is not to say that we should not strive to be better but we carry different ‘karmic loads’ and comparisons are absurd. If my failings teach me humility and not to be harsh with others then they serve a valuable purpose.

“A warrior takes his lot, whatever it may be, and accepts it in ultimate humbleness. He accepts in humbleness what he is, not as grounds for regret but as a living challenge.” – Carlos Castaneda