Summary: We do what we don’t want, and vice versa...Why?

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:14 - 25 (NRSV) [1]

We are still grappling with some of life’s “why” questions. Today’s question is #6 in the series – a riddle that is arguably one of the simplest and most basic; at the same time it is most profound: Why do I do the bad stuff I know is wrong – and the corollary question – why can’t I seem to do the stuff I know is right and should be done? In short, why don’t I have more self-control to master my own actions?

Once you’ve figured out that life really does have this equation…doing wrong when you want to do right, and vice versa…you begin to also understand that either side of the equation can drive you quite mad!

Paul gave us the short answer to the riddle of “why” –sin, with a capital “S”. He identified it as a war he saw within his very nature…the inside. Trained professionals would identify the location as the psyche – the inner being parts of us that make up who we are…personality, will…everything that describes our values, decision-making and actions.

Despite our best and noblest intentions we fail to run a perfect course; we sin! We sin even in the least [eternally] significant issues, like maintaining a better diet. The doctor has said “lose 30 pounds” and all we can hear late at night is that half-gallon of double fudge ripple ice cream calling from the fridge!

But there are also issues of much greater significance, both personally and for the greater good of humanity. “Jurgen Bartsch, [was] a German serial killer who began torturing and killing little boys at the age of 15, once said of himself, From a certain age (around the age of 13 or 14) I always had the feeling of no longer having any control over what I was doing ... I prayed, and I hoped at least that it would do some good, but it didn’t. ... Similarly, serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, rather than pleading guilty, chose to go to trial because, in his own words, he wanted to find out just what it was that caused me to be so bad and evil”. [2] We all fight the battle of good and evil choices. We try all sorts of remedies to “fix” ourselves:

I. Try to Resist (change by sheer willpower – self-help)

You know how hard it is to resist temptation. Have you never played the game like the man who was trying to lose weight? He had to pass Krispy Kreme Donuts on the way to work. He asked for a sign – if it was OK to get a dozen there would be a parking spot open when he drove by. Amazingly – on just the 14th time around the block, there was a spot open right up front!

When I served a church in Greenville, Florida, one of our men was Joe Ball Reams; about 6’4” and a man’s man! He farmed tobacco, corn and cotton to pay the bills. One of his entrepreneurial ventures is a 600 acre hunting club on family land. He has entertained Southern royalty there (Tennessee football coach Johnny Majors).

Joe loves to laugh and he is an excellent storyteller. He told me a whopper one time. He showed up at my door and told me he had a “hankerin’ to go fishin’, an’, preacher, yer th’ onliest feller left in town t’day, c’mon – go with me.” It was November, cold and rain was threatening, but when somebody that big invites – you go!

We fished the marshes off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico south of Tallahassee in his flat-bottomed air boat. That’s right….he was the captain in the seat above – I sat on the floor of a skiff with a ½” thick aluminum hull for a seat!

The whopper was that Joe promised he’d stay close to shore where the water was calm. It rained for three hours – I was shivering like a wet dog! On the way back to shore Joe Ball bolted away from land and got halfway to Europe where the big waves tossed the preacher with the bad back up and down like a ping pong ball on lottery drawing day. It was too noisy to complain, and too wet to walk home! When we finally got back to the car I had to ask him just why he had to head for the rough waters. He said, “Well, preacher, you know you just looked too comfortable down there, an’ it was so temptin’ – well, I just guess the devil made me do it!” Then he laughed all the way back to Greenville!

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