Summary: If you ever get to Venice, one of the places to see is Saint Mark’s Square, the spot Napoleon called “the drawing room of Europe.” But if you go there, make sure your belly is covered up. It’s not that there’s exactly a dress code, but there is an expecta
If you ever get to Venice, one of the places to see is Saint Mark’s Square, the spot Napoleon called “the drawing room of Europe.” But if you go there, make sure your belly is covered up. It’s not that there’s exactly a dress code, but there is an expectation of decorum. At any given time there can be thousands of people in this famous square which is surrounded by great architecture and sites of historic importance. But some people just don’t get it, and they aren’t above wandering onto the square bare-chested or with their midriff exposed. Some carelessly drop litter and others try to set out picnic lunches on the square. Still others treat the nearby Grand Canal as if it were a beach. So recently, in addition to posting signs naming the prohibitions, they have started employing a squad of women as stewards of the square to make sure tourists are not taking unwarranted liberties and pay due respect to the historic property.
These stewards, wear special T-shirts to identify their role and they try to do their work in a friendly way. They speak several languages so as to deal with foreign tourists. Most visitors who are corrected by a steward respond positively. However, when tourists turn aggressive, the women are able to call in police backup who can hand out fines ranging from 25 to 500 Euros. Actually, the stewards aren’t there to stop people from enjoying themselves, but to remind them of the importance of conducting themselves in a way that recognizes the beauty of the place.
Our reason for discussing all this is not to lament the state of our dress or manners, but to illustrate the idea that there are times and places where we need a steward to direct us in how to be in the square of life. That can be hard to hear in our individualist, don’t-fence-me-in society, but it’s true nonetheless. And that brings us to our reading from Romans, where the apostle Paul contrasts what he calls life in the flesh with life in the Spirit. Romans 8:1-11.
The letter of the Apostle Paul to Romans is a fascinating letter. You can spend a life time discussing the glorious riches found in this epistle. One verse in particular has shaped the understanding and eventually led to the conversion of the great reformer Martin Luther which is Romans 1:17, “Just as it is written, the righteous will live by faith.” In his own words Martin Luther said, "At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open."
The sixteen chapters of Romans can be divided into two major sections. Chapter’s 1-7 talks about the depravity of man and God’s provision for salvation. Chapters 8-16, what I call a “Manual for New Life” talks about how to live out our New Life.
Much of what the Apostle Paul says in Chapter 8 is tied to chapter seven. In chapter 8 He starts with a glorious declaration in Vs 1-2, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” This is a weighty statement which has eternal implications. In order for us to fully appreciate this statement let me Illustrate from a legal point of view.
I. GUILTY? OR NOT GUILTY?
Let’s suppose you have been accused of a murder and were brought before the court. The prosecutors have presented their evidence and requested the court to grant justice by demanding the highest possible punishment which is a death sentence. How would you feel listening to that request of the prosecution? You are waiting for the juries decision; Guilty? Or not Guilty? The jury has arrived with a guilty verdict on all counts, and pressed for death sentence. Now you know you are doomed for certain, but some how hoping for a different out come. If any one can change the outcome would be the judge. Would he change or would he not?
All of a sudden the judge steps in and sets aside the juries verdict; and to every ones surprise pronounce you as “Not Guilty.” Can you imagine what a surge of emotions would flood through your whole being? You will feel like you’ve been given a new lease of life; won’t you? That’s what Paul precisely was describing in this passage. According to the law we were all guilty of breaking God’s commandments hence were pronounced sinners, and condemned to die. To that extent Paul cried out in Romans 7: 24, “what a wretched man I am who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!