The Gap between intention and action

September 13, 2007 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

There certainly is a lot of discrepancy between saying what we are going to do and actually doing what we said we would do, just as there is a lot of inconsistency between what we ought to do and what we actually do. In other words, there is always a gap between intention and action. The apostle Paul stated this succinctly in his letter to the Romans (7:15) “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” We all want to do the right thing and avoid the wrong, but inevitably end up doing the opposite. Paul identified the source of this conflict. In verses 18-20 in the same chapter, he says “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

The last sentence was not a “cop-out” for Paul, but I am certainly guilty of having used this as an excuse many a time. It is much too easy to blame the World, the System, the Circumstance and everything else including the Kitchen Sink for our failures to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the cause for such failures rest squarely with us and we have to bear the consequences of these actions. The first consequence is usually self condemnation that hangs heavy after we realize our error. Paul knew this well, and that is why he addressed this right away in the next chapter.

In Rom 8:1-4, Paul clearly shows us the difference between the Law and Grace. “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. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Although we know that we need not face condemnation (from within and without!), and that the Grace of God through Christ’s death washes away our sins if we confess them, we still have to bear the consequences of our actions and make the effort to change.

We can do this only with the help of the Holy Spirit that God has so freely given us. Bearing the consequences and enduring the struggle to change, though, can be life-long affairs, and you and I will certainly need patience, persistence and utter dependence on God in everything in order to get through. The struggle to do the right thing is a daily battle – a battle that will end only when we pass from this world into the next. We will have to stand firm until then and know and use the full armor of God (Eph 6:13-17) in this battle.

Just as I mentioned in the post on “Recipe for Life“, we have to do our part. Making the effort to change involves first determining what needs to be changed. While I should not dwell on my weaknesses, I will certainly have to understand them, determine where the enemy attacks me, take steps to avoid situations where I might be compromised and change old habits that led me down the “wide path”. Personally, whenever someone invokes the green monster of envy in me because of what they have or are, lately I have tried to replace that thought with a prayer of blessing for that person. (I learnt that from Bishop T D Jakes, a man I admire, who admitted this fault – I now know I am not alone in this!). When anger wells up (see my previous post on “Anger Management“), I consciously take a deep breath and try again. I have a long way to go on the “narrow path”, but I have taken some steps in the right direction. I also know that with God’s help, I will continue to advance.

My prayer is that eventually, the sentence “Do as I say, and not as I do” will be a thing of the past for me! How about you?

In Him,

John Kanagaraj


Entry filed under: Nature of Man.

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