Of all the questions in the section of the Catechism beginning with the Ten Commandments, number 28 (page 43) is one that, at least for me, is the most “real” in that it addresses a daily struggle we are all too familiar with: “What is the result of having both the old Adam and the new self within us?” Luther answers this with two passages -- both from the pen of St. Paul (Galatians 5:17 and Romans 7:18-23). The latter passage is probably the more familiar of the two. Paul lays out his own struggle between doing what he doesn’t want to do (the old Adam) and what, through faith, he wants to do (the new self). Maybe like me, you find yourself nodding along with Paul.
While this conflict is very real, I have to remind myself that it is not a war of equals. Christ has already won the war and granted us His victory. Unlike cartoons, we do not have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, equal in power and vying for our attention and compliance. The very fact that we, like Paul, want to do good and despise the sins we commit shows that Christ’s victory has changed our hearts. More than that, we are given the ability to commit our lives to service to God (Romans 12:1 and 2 Corinthians 5:14,15). We aren’t locked in either a temporal or eternal war where the outcome is undetermined. We don’t have to face each day -- or eternity -- hoping that the angel on one shoulder beats out the devil. Sure, we’ll slip up countless times between now and the end of all things. But Christ’s victory covers that, too. More than that, Christ gives us the strength and ability to live a life pleasing to God. Sure, that makes the sins we commit sting even more, but at the end of the day, we can lay our heads down in peace knowing that God’s mercies are new every day and that one day, the old Adam will be gone forever.