Wholeheartedness and The Justified Life

Everyone wants wholeheartedness.  Popular and award-winning author and speaker, Brene Brown, has spent her life studying the difficult emotions of shame, fear, and vulnerability.  She says these difficult emotions are so painful because we are hardwired for their opposite – “wholeheartedness.”

What is wholeheartedness?  Brown says that the answer is “living and loving with your whole heart…wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness...a place of belonging and being enough…(instead of from a place of) hustling for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, and pleasing.”

While Brown describes wholeheartedness experientially, the Apostle Paul in Romans 1-6 does so doctrinally as a justified life or a gospel life.  In our passage this week, Romans 7.1-4, Paul adds a little more color:  “belonging to another” (v.4), “bearing fruit for God” (v.4), and “the new way of the Spirit” (v.6).  According to Paul, wholeheartedness is a whole new realm or sphere of life that is brimming with the life-giving Spirit.  Everyone wants wholeheartedness; it’s in our biology, in our soul, and all over Romans.  Why then is it so hard to achieve?  Why is wholeheartedness so elusive?

Paul’s first answer is found in the identity of those to whom he is speaking in verse one: “Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law….”  Paul is specifically addressing wholeheartedness in relation to those who get the law.  If you feel the pressure of perfecting, then you get the law.  If you feel the exhaustion of performing, then you get the law.  If you feel the bondage and anxiety of proving and pleasing, then you get the law.  Paul is speaking to you.   

Paul’s second answer to why “wholeheartedness” is so hard to achieve is found in his use of the image of marriage (vv.1-3) in order to show how intimate, deeply personal, and powerfully binding a relationship with the law actually is:  we come into this world married to the law.  This is why we live stressed-out, anxious, driven, angry, controlling, guilty, co-dependent, exhausted lives.  This is why we need to perform, please, perfect, and prove.  “Wholeheartedness” is impossible when we are married to the law because it is not something that can be achieved through the law; it is only something that can be received by grace.

How do we receive wholeheartedness by grace?  Paul’s answer is that first we have to die.  We have to die to the law.  We have to die to the law in order to be married to another (v.4):  “You…have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead….”  A Christian has died to law or achievement-salvation through the death of Jesus.  A Christian can now say, “No!” to the need and pressure to please, perform, and perfect. 

Paul’s second answer is the spousal love of Jesus.  Only the spousal love of Jesus will drive the old way of law-living out of us.  A Christian belongs to the real and never ending love of one who has been raised from the dead.  Let Jesus’ spousal love experientially produce wholeheartedness in you and functionally drive out the emptiness of pleasing, performing, and perfecting.