The Jewish people have been schooled deeply in the law. I have not been so trained, but I am at least a novice when it comes to the law.
However, it is not the law of the Old Testament or of the Torah that has bound me up and kept me falling short of the glory of God that has been created in me. It was a much crueler and un-obeyable set of human laws imposed upon me during my earliest years. Growing up, I was taught that there was a vague, always changing, severe set of rules or laws I was supposed to obey.
These laws were cruel because they carried the threat of abandonment. Anthony Home was the place they sent juvenile delinquents in San Diego. I was often told, “Do what I say or the police will come and take you to Anthony Home.
The rules were un-obeyable because they were always changing. I would work to do what I was supposed to do only to find that the rule had changed. It is hard to obey a law when you are never sure what the law is going to be five minutes from now. Breaking one of these shifting, elusive rules often brought me severe consequences both physically and verbally and constant unhealthy shame.
Because of the cruel and shifting rules under which I grew up, I deeply felt that I would never be able to measure up. The law became a subconscious sense that I was doomed to live forever separated from God. That sense of doom or condemnation gave me a profound sense of unhealthy shame. I was dominated by unhealthy shame. It paralyzed me.
As I read the scriptures above , I see that I am no longer bound to try to live by that cruel law, or any other law. Just as a woman is freed from a man because of divorce, I am free from all those deeply internalized demands I make of myself. That means I was freed from my unhealthy shame. Of course, developing the daily freedom I experience from the personality destruction of unhealthy shame was and is a long, slow process which continues to this moment.
Unhealthy shame is in opposition to healthy shame. Healthy shame is embracing my limitations. My reading of Paul and in particular, Romans 7, begins at the point of accepting my limitations, most specifically, that I am completely powerless to be the man I am supposed to be on my own. If I am to live a life that steadily moves me toward being the man I was created to be, it will come to pass because of I choose to adopt a life of daily, persistent, lifelong growth in my ability to maintain conscious contact with God.
If my hope of growth toward Godliness is based upon imposing some law, any law, on my unwilling heart, I am doomed to fail. Living honorably, as opposed to shamefully, is totally dependent on living in God and experiencing the gradual change that starts with God induced changes to my deepest heart. Ultimately these changes work themselves out in changes in my behavior. The healing changes are always from the inside of my heart and then out to my behavior.
The point of Romans is that we have peace with God. We are welcome in the presence of God. What we need is not the faith to be saved from Hell. That is such a negative perspective. We have been totally accepted, totally loved and that love and acceptance has been totally been accomplished at the cross.