“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Paul’s lament at the end of his argument in Romans 7 comes as he considers the ways in which his body rages against his better knowledge. Despite what the mind knows to be good, the body resists that good and persists in directing the self elsewhere — toward sin, death, and destruction. Many Christians are aware of the so-called “sanctification gap” — that chasm between the doctrine that we know and the ideals that we long for, on the one hand, and our concrete habits and behavior that are still so often mired in sin, on the other.
Yet, despite our affirmation of what Paul teaches here, we often still treat discipleship as mere content-transmission, as if we were speaking to brains on a stick or robots that can be reprogrammed if we could just enter the right code. We have not acted fully upon our conviction that our bodies need more than sound doctrinal knowledge in order to be transformed. How, then, can change take place? And what exactly is it in us that requires change?
Here, I draw our attention to two concepts drawn from contemporary affect theory that give a more granular description of Paul’s claims here on our recalcitrant body and then offer three ways (alongside sound doctrine) by which Christians should seek deep change.
Art by Kayton Hosket Barnes