Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wretched man...

Ah.... wretched man that I am.  Overboard?  Over-wrought?  Get over it?  The words of Paul sound so out of sync with today's mindset of boosting self-esteem at all costs by eschewing things too difficult to chew on...

Yet, I think the term "wretched" is not only appropriate in certain contexts describing man, but is also a necessary and Biblical concept.  Why would one refer to himself as "wretched'?  Not because we are trash, or worth nothing (or less than nothing when feeling depressed).  The Christian can own this adjective in light of the fact that he was created in the image of God.  He has imprinted on his soul the knowledge of God and his righteousness (Rom. 2:14-15).  He is a member of the human race originally created pure and sinless.  But now he is no longer pure but a sinner, both by birth (going back to Adam) and by thought, word, and deed.  He, by nature, loves the darkness and not the light (John 3:19-21).  

Having then been graced by God with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ and having sins forgiven, the term is still an apt description of a Christian in the context of Rom. 7.  Though now justified by the blood of Christ, all too often I willingly sin and resist the grace of God.  The law of sin in my "members' is still alive and warring with the law in my new heart and mind (born of His Spirit) that agrees with God's righteousness.  As a recipient of the salvation of God in Christ, I am now even more aware of how far I had fallen... and how "in my flesh" I still rebelliously embrace sin.  Especially in light of God's lavish love and forgiveness, when I sin and turn from his wonderful and freely given grace - I am most wretched.  

Interestingly, Paul's awareness of his "wretchedness" in Romans 7 didn't lead to despair but to rejoicing and blessing:

24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
next verse beginning of Chapter 8:
1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

So at the same time we can say, as Christians, we are both "wretched" and "blessed"... sinner and saint... far from holy - yet wholly justified by Christ's sacrifice and merit... presently being conformed to Christ's righteous image by his Spirit through the ministry of his Word and Sacrament in the Church.

Related thoughts were touched upon in this post from last September.


  1. Jack,

    I would love to pick your brain and hear a response from you regarding this post:

    I pushed back a little in the comments and, unfortunately I wasn't as clear as I should have been.

    If you have any thoughts or rebukes regarding my comments I would much rather hear them from you then from my Arminan or four-pointer brothers.

    Thank you for your help.

    I feel, based on Romans 7, that I am right. But am certainly open to being corrected.

    God bless.