Dear Inspiration Seekers,
Paul brings up a metaphor of slavery near the end of Chapter 5, then follows this up with an example of applying the law to marriage in Chapter 6, to illustrate to the Romans the limiations of the law related to sin and righteousness. Interesting juxtiposition of concepts: two type of bondage. What he appears to be working his way around to is that we all serve something/one… or was that a Bob Dylan song on “Slow Train Coming”? So, you chose: slavery to sin or slavery to grace. If you are not in a humerous mood, you may want to read something else, or come back to this inspiration on another day. Humor often allows us to address serious topics by seeing the logic in the obsurdity.
Slavery, ironically a practice in both Greek demoncracies and the Roman Republic, two of the most liberal societys for those who were citizens, suggest an obligation of obiedence. Both Greek and Roman society viewed slavery as enhancing freedom, because the practice reminded them that they too could be enslaved if they did not follow the laws and social norms of their societies. Yet, in both societies, one could earn one’s freedom through obedience. I could not say that this phenonemon is what Paul is referring to, but that background gives an interesting twist to his discussion on the law, sin, and righteousness. Some might believe that they could work their way out of sinfullness by following the law, but as Paul had asserted earlier, all will fall short of this goal, and therefor continue to be slaves to sin on their own merit. Thus, freedom is granted by the master, or stated differently by his grace.
Paul then discusses the nuances of marriage according to the law (I do not know whether this is Jewish law or Roman law). Basically, the sin of “adultary” has less to do with whether a woman (in his example — we are not into the ERA periods of the late 20th century) has sex with a second husband, but whether her 1st husband is dead. I am not sure whether the law is condemning the wife for marrying before the husband is dead, or the law is condemning the husband for not dying off in a timely manner. While Paul may seem to be using the example of marriage to sugggest that we avoid serial monogomy, I think that he is illustrating the convoluted application of the law. Sex with a second man is not so much the issue as the time of sex with a second man in sequence with the demise of the first. The law is a trap of semantics.
In our western culture at this time, sex is certainly a trap. “The Week” magazine’s cover story asked wither “sexting is adultry”. We seem to have forgotten t0 get married the first time, let alone marrying the second time, etc. If we are going to bring up our sexual appetites, we need to also acknowledge the products of those acts, regardless of whether they fall into fornication or adultry categories. Country music provides a great library of the varitions on this sinful sexual conduct: cheeting songs (“I Got Your Picture”), vegence songs (“The Box It Came In”), oh-so-lonely songs (“Digging up Bones”), sins-of-the-father songs (“Rambling Man”), and abandoned-children/women songs (“Mama Hated Diesel”), and longing-for-redemption songs (“Mama and Jesus Always Loved Me”).
One genre of country song that I cannot think of is aborting-the-fetus songs. Abortion has gone on as long as sex has been occuring. Only in our lifetimes with governments legalizing abortion have we begun to acknowledge this procedure, possibly with an attempt to promote greater medical safety in its performance. At the risk of gross over-simplication of a complex topic, I would suggest that the primary reason for women seeking abortions in western society, other than the woman’s health issues, is because of men and women have sex without the intent of bearing and rearing children. (I understand that in other cultures, sonograms revealing a femal fetus is the primary reason for ending a pregnancy). Our adoption processes seem to be bottlenecked such that couples who would like to adopt children have to go to great expense of finances and time to step in to help a child and woman in dire stragihts. I do not believe that any woman seeks an abortion on a whim or easily. Should we, as a society, be putting most of our energy into debating the no-win outcome of unplanned pregnancies? Or, might we invest our efforts into preventing the preceding errors which lead to the dilemma?
The law certainly has not stopped people from having sex over the millenium. While sounding reasonable and recently popular, “abstiance only” pledges have a 70% failure rate. And, unfortanately, usually the teenagers who take these pledges have not had to or have not listened to “sex-education” to know how to use contraceptives correctly. Furthermore, the religous groups, which usually promote abstinance strategies, see using contraceptives outside of marriage as “planning to sin”. Thus “being overwhelmed by temptation” at the last moment generates the highest rates of teen and unplanned pregnancies in the USA. Add a little alcohol or other intoxicating chemicals and the rates of unplanned pregancies go higher.
Promoting marriage seems like a good idea, until you look at our divorce statistics. And, how many of those young marriages, with young parents, become young divorced parents, who do not know how to get along, let alone how to teach their young children how to behave or grow to maturity? I think we need to spend more time on helping young adults gain maturity before asking them to make a life-time commitment to someone else and the institution of marriage. While a couple of generations ago, maturity may have come around age 18 to 20, today we seem to need a few more years, so 24 – 26 might be a better age. By then, the yound men and woman might have had a chance to finish college and start a carrer. Personally, I did not get mature enough until about age 30.
So, what do you do with a lot of sexually interested teenagers and young adults for 10 to 15 years until the social-decision-making section of the brain catches up with other anatomy? Abstinance and promescuity both have limitions and undesirable outcomes. How about we try gay-marriage. Follow the logic here. First two men or two women cannot have children. Second, if, as our society has demosntrated, youthful marriages are not likely to last. Rather than generating children from these marriages, if the couples were gay, they could come to the conclusion that their youthful enthusiasm was folley, divorce, and move on to more mature relationships, whether gay or straight. Third, if the gay marriages should last, the couple would have to go to some effort to become parents, either by adopting, or for women, seeking sperm donors. Each child would be wanted and planned. Imagine the decline in aborts in our country.
Okay, if I still have anyone reading by this time, I hope that you recognize that I am using language and concepts to absurd conclusions. Unrestrained sex, unwanted pregnancies, terminated pregnancies, marriage are all important issues, but the law does not demonstrate an ability to sort them out nor constrain our behavior. Something else must guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions.
Romans 7: “Whom do I serve today”.
Until next time, Inspiration Seekers
P.S. When I wrote this blog over a week ago, I had noticed the wonderful paradox that I would post it over 4th of July weekend, when we might be thinking about our concept of freedom.