Last week, we had a Covenant Renewal service at college. In principal, I don't think I have any objection to them, but I've never been to one I found helpful.
My main problem with those things is that they often expect people to promise what they know they can't fulfil. In this case, I think we were expected to promise never intentionally to sin again. Now, I know I can want to do that, but I know equally well that I am not perfect and that I do all kinds of stupid stuff. I know that I am a sinner in continual need of God's grace. And I have no intention of promising anything I can't fulfil.
So I am quite happy to promise that I "intend to lead a new life" or to say that I surrender to Christ. I'm happy to offer my soul and body as a living sacrifice, but I know that I'm a sacrifice that just keeps trying to crawl off the altar.
So this led me back to wondering how on Earth I could be a Christian. How can I seek to follow Jesus, when I know that I'll fail? That's a painful path, but it's one I've trodden before and I know the way now.
So I turned to Galatians 2:17, which in the NIV reads
"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Galatians 2:17-19, NIV
In other words, the fact that I go on sinning even after putting my trust in God only goes to show that I am a sinner and that I keep on needing God's grace. And that's the normal Christian experience. It reminds me not to be complacent, but that I need to keep coming back to Jesus to seek forgiveness and to recognise that I need him.
Except that the Bibles we have in chapel are TNIVs. I'm usually fine with the TNIV, but this verse really annoyed me.
But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn't that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Galatians 2:17-19, TNIV
The addition of the word "Jews" totally changes the meaning away from the meaning that I found so helpful when studying this as an undergraduate. So I looked it up in the Greek, and "Jews" isn't there. It seems to have been added in as a totally unhelpful and incorrect addition for no good reason whatsoever.
So God is good, but the TNIV translators are dumb and just as much in need of God's continued grace as I am.