Obligation (Romans 8:12)

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—

Romans 8:12

Paul is progressing through his systematic discourse on our salvation. He has made the case that I died to The Law in Christ’s death and that I am, therefore, free of The Law. He goes so far as to say, in Romans 8:1, that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. The Law is powerless over those who have died with Christ. He continues that thought, because he knew that there were going to be people who would take their freedom as a license to do any old thing they felt like doing. He even addressed that very thought process earlier in the letter.

Where Paul takes the discourse is into the realm of obligation. We are obliged to God. To be obliged is to be morally or legally bound to a course of action. It can also mean that we do something to please someone else (as in “I obliged my daughter and we watched Paw Patrol for the tenth time today.”). The thought of the original language is that we are debtors to God; that we owe God something for what He has done for us. If that is not the understatement of all eternity, I do not know what is.

I do not like having obligations. There are those who understand that there is nothing so wonderful as looking at the calendar for a weekend and seeing nothing but weekend. No plans. No obligations. Nothing but empty calendar space. Then there are those who prefer to have something planned. For some reason, there is this wild discrepancy between people that causes half of us to want to owe nothing to anyone and half of us to be sick (I jest). But there is no way to avoid the reality that I am obliged to God; that I owe Him my all.

There is an antiquated way of saying “Thank you.” that can still be caught in conversation from time to time: “Much obliged.” In English idiom, the notion of being “obliged” to someone has taken on the meaning of being grateful; thankful for what that person has done. While I do not think that the original language supports that meaning, it is, nonetheless, apropos. Not only do I owe God a debt I cannot pay, but I should be overwhelmed with gratitude for what He has done for me. He paid a debt I could not pay to redeem a man (me) who was not worthy of redemption. If I am not grateful for that, then there is something wrong in my perception of things.

This morning, I am reminded that I owe God a debt that I cannot repay and that I owe that debt because He paid yet another debt I could never repay. The debt I owe Him is light and easy compared to the one He paid for me and that deserves my gratitude.

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