The Impossibly High Standard (Lent 18-2013)

If you’ve ever been to a theme park, you’ve likely encountered rides marked with a sign that reads, “You must be this tall to ride.” 

I always wondered about that.  Let’s say someone was very tall for their age…or very short.  It’d be a disqualifier that you couldn’t do anything about.  One could hope that with age, we will grow in height.

But what if the sign was so tall that no one could reach it no matter how old they were or how tall they got?

That’s a picture of what today’s passage (Romans 7:1-13) is saying about the Mosaic Law.

The law is an impossibly high standard.  No matter how long we have been alive or how long we have been Christians or Jews, we will never be able to live up to that high standard.  We’re not up to the level needed to ride.  So we stand there looking at the sign and are acutely aware of being too small, falling too short.

What might be some of the reactions to the requirements?

  • Cry because you couldn’t ride?
  • Become angry at the requirement being impossible to attain?
  • Feel frustration that no matter how hard you worked, it wasn’t good enough?
  • Would you pass judgment on the ride, the standard, or the whole theme park as being worthless?
  • Would you experience denial, insisting you are tall enough?
  • Or maybe would it release your inner schemer: I’ll find a way around it?

I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.  So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Romans 7: 10-12)

Considering the ride at the theme park, the sign is there as a positive to permit me to ride, but instead it is negative in that it points out that I am deficient and unable.  If the sign wasn’t there, I wouldn’t know I couldn’t ride until boarding time when I’d be passed over for not measuring up because the standard is the standard.  Likewise, the law is there to show me what it takes to live with holiness, and what do I see?  My deficiency and inability to live with holiness.  It’s not the law’s fault.  It’s the way things are.

I am deficient not because there was a sign pointing it out, but the sign clearly shows the impossibly high standard that I am unable on my own to satisfy.  For the Jews of Paul’s day, they wanted to believe that they received the law as a positive to give them a ticket to heaven.  But the law stood as a reminder that they could never measure up.  It is an Impossibly High Standard.

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Give it up for Lent: Striving for the impossible and resisting God’s solution

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For further study:

  1. What is your reaction to the impossibly high standard of the law?
  2. Consider Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Unlike the theme park where the sign prevents you from riding, what did Jesus do to allow us to experience eternal life?
  3. Read Colossians 2:13-15.  What did Jesus do with the impossibly high standard?
  4. If we died with Christ, how is our relationship to the law like Paul’s example from marriage in Romans 7:1-3?

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on March 5, 2013

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