Tag Archive for Romans

Doing Justice

Have you ever wondered why Jesus told people to walk around naked? It’s a topic I am hoping to make my first sermon sometime in the next two years. In the meantime here is a really short answer I offered in response to an answer on a midterm. I hope it has relevance to your life even though you may be missing all the details and context from the class! Here goes…

[Walter Wink]* appeals to the verses in Romans, 1 Thessalonians and 1 Peter, which say “do not repay evil for evil” and to Matthew 5 where it says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’, but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them your other cheek also. If someone sues you and wants to take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” 

He appeals to these texts because he believes that this passage has often been misinterpreted to passivity instead of nonviolent resistance. 

He interprets the slapping on the cheek in view of the necessity of a blow on the right cheek being given as a backhanded slap rather than as a punch. Being backhanded was a blow met to degrade. Punching was something one did when they fought an equal. He believes Jesus was telling victims to communicate to their abusers that they had the same human value and dignity as their abusers. 

Wink interprets giving of cloak as well as tunic to indicate exposing the evilness of the system. Only the poorest of the poor were being stripped of everything in the time of Jesus. By the time someone was suing them for their tunic instead of their land, they had nothing. By walking out of court naked, the victim would shock his abusers as well as expose the true result of their actions. In that society the naked person was not the one on whom shame was put but rather the one who was looking upon the naked. 

Wink interprets going the second mile to be a way in which the oppressed Israelites could take the initiative against their Roman oppressors. Roman soldiers were allowed to impress service on civilians and force them to carry their pack for a mile. To carry the pack a second mile would be to put the soldier in a position of possible punishment. Perhaps he would be put on barley instead of wheat, made to stand outside of the officers’ tent holding a lump of dirt, flogged or a number of other punishments. Whatever the case, the soldier wouldn’t know what was happening to him as a result of the Jew’s “generosity”. Wink calls us to consider the humor of the scene of a Roman soldier begging a Jew to give him his pack back! 

This interpretation is about finding a way to resist evil without becoming evil in the process of doing so. By exposing the injustice of the system room may be created for just change.  

Well, that’s that! I have much more to say on the topic, but it’s time to hit the road running. I have far more to accomplish this week than I can imagine doing.

May the grace of God be with us as we go throughout our day and resist evil in the ways Jesus teaches! Consider His life. Never did He condone it. Always did He resist it. Let us do the same, but without becoming evil in our means of doing so!

*Most information in this answer is taken from pages 98-111 of The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium, Walter Wink, 1998.

Peacemakers

Today I am going to celebrate all the people I love in my life. Right now some of them don’t like each other, but I am going to rejoice that God has called and ENABLED me to love them all – Democrat and Republican, gay-affirming and homophobic, rich and poor, self-employed and day laborer, corporate executive and street cleaner, mansion dweller and gutter sleeper.

It’s Marin Luther King Jr. Day, so I think it is only appropriate that I am spending the day reading (hopefully) 150 pages of a book in my biblical and practical peacemaking class.

Here is a quote that got my juices flowing this morning, “To be a Christian means that loyalty to the ‘Christ’ paradigm is the final standard by which to evaluate Christian action. To declare oneself a Christian means to confess that ultimate reality is fundamentally revealed in the biblical paradigm of redemptive history, a norm that reaches its culmination in the Christ event. It is neither possible nor proper, then, for Christians to attempt to develop the norms for politics on independent rational or philosophical grounds apart from revelation. That would, in effect, mean that revelation is not really the absolute presupposition from which Christians operate, that something alongside faith is of equal value.”*

While I disagree with this author on many other points, I think I can agree with him on that one!

Praise be to Jesus Christ for His great love for me!

For while I was still a sinner He died for me. (Romans 5:8)

While I didn’t want anything to do with Him, He gently persuaded me to reconsider my rejection of Him.

Yes! “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9

Today let us all be peacemakers!

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Today, be reconciled! Be blessed!

* Friesen DK. Christian Peacemaking & International Conflict : A Realist Pacifist Perspective. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press; 1986. 

Shared Knowledge with God

“the knowledge they share with God, in the original religious formulation, or the knowledge they share with other members of their community, in secular understandings.”* The quote struck me. It was a definition of conscience.

What does it mean to share knowledge with God? Would I define conscience in any other way? Where does a deep sense of knowing the difference between right and wrong come from if it doesn’t come from God? If it does come from God, would that then not be knowledge shared with God?

Honestly, I love that such a brutal book on the ethics of war (secular not Christian) left me with an uplifting and redemptive thought.

The book itself was challenging and not cheerful. Parts horrified me even with my B.A. in history and my background in military history. It was filled with blood from beginning to end. Because it was a book on ethics, we studied about massacres, genocides, atomic bombs and the surprisingly devastating siege.

Little known fact: more citizens died in the siege of Leningrad in World War II than in both atomic bombings and at Tokyo, Dresden and Hamburg.**

The book was disturbing from beginning to end. I am glad a few pages from its end, it cheered me by reminding me of Romans 2:14-15.

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

Today as you go about your day, consider the common knowledge you have with God and celebrate its truth! When your conscience condemns you as you are about to do something, stop, look up (and around), remember that your conscience is shared knowledge with God, stop and do what your conscience celebrates instead.

Know that God loves you, and celebrate that you innately know what is righteous, pure, holy and true!!!

*Quote from Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer. Fifth edition. 2015. Page 342.
**Page 160

Survival of the Fittest

I have been listening to a podcast about animals, and the phrase “survival of the fittest” is brought up consistently. It is no secret to anyone that in the natural world it is the strong that survive while the weak perish. The fastest lion will always eat the slowest gazelle. One must always be at worst the second slowest gazelle to survive.

I can’t help but wondering if survival of the fittest was what Paul was talking about when he said that all creation has been groaning since the beginning of time. I love this passage in Romans 8:19-22.

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

When Paul said creation was hoping to be liberated and to share in the freedom and glory of God’s children, I wonder if he meant we are all waiting for the day when everyone survives not just the fastest – or at least the least slow.

I say this because the kingdom of God works differently. In the kingdom of God it is the weak who are strong. Jesus said to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. “ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Jesus instructs His disciples:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

There is the ever present warning that we must be as a child in order to enter the kingdom of God. For Jesus said:

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 (similar passages are found in Matthew 18:3, Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:15)

Does creation groan waiting for the day when the weak not only survive but thrive? Does the animal kingdom cry out for the day when the strong will not eat the weak? Do snakes cry out for the day when eagles will not eat them? Do birds cry out for the day when snakes will now swallow them? Is every one wanting this rat race of pain to finally end?

After speaking of all creation, Paul says in reference to us, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:23-25

We can wait for the day when the physical creation stops groaning patiently and with great confidence knowing this day WILL come. In the meantime, remember that there is rest for the weary human being!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Perhaps today you will go to a job that seems like it is simply a race for the “survival of the fittest. As you do so, rest in Him. Know His grace is sufficient for us! Be patient. Wait confidently. Hope with great assurance that some day ALL the weak will thrive!

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious”

Isaiah 11:6-10

A look at destiny

Much of what God has destined me for, I am really excited about. I am excited about becoming like God (Romans 8:29), being holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4), being adopted as His son (Ephesians 1:5) and being for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).

I am a little less excited about 1 Thessalonians 3, which says I was destined for trials and persecution. Indeed Jesus Himself warns us constantly in the gospels that the life of a disciple will be one fraught with pain. We will have to lay down our entire lives (Luke 14:33); we may lose our entire families (Luke 12:51, Matthew 10:34); we may be called the devil (Matthew 10:24-25). The list could go on and on.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he warned them frequently in person that they would under go persecution and “it turned out that way as you well know.” He had sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them in their faith, “so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.”

It’s not a fun fact, but it is a fact. You and I will have many trials in this life. Jesus has a good way of cheering us up! “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It’s true that we will face trials and persecution here, but it is just as true that we are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6) We don’t submit to our trials. We don’t worship them. No, they are under our feet. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

Today as we face each trial and every unkind word, let us remember Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Grace, Grace, and more Grace!!!

Have you ever wondered how you can quickly tell the difference between a pastor that teaches the law and one who teaches grace? Listen for whether they teach you how you should act versus what you should believe about the identity of Christ and yourself.

In both Romans and Galatians, the Apostle Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5, which reads, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Later he (or the writer of the letters to Timothy) instructs the young pastor that “the law is good if one uses it properly.” (1 Timothy 1:8)

The law isn’t bad. Paul states in Romans 7 that rather it is holy, righteous and good. It simply needs to be used properly.

In Romans 10:5-13, Paul explains the difference between living by the law and living by faith. In this text, he once again quotes the Law of Moses, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” (Deuteronomy 30:14) This verse, he says, refers to life lived by grace. He then makes the very famous statement, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

A life lived by grace is one that is lived by learning what to BELIEVE and not by learning what to DO. The two stand in direct opposition to each other. Many pastors and teachers disguise the law by calling it “wisdom teaching”. When someone has lives by what they do, they can live a very fruitful life. Moses states this, and Paul reiterates it as being what distinguishes the law from grace. (Romans 10:5, Galatians 3:12)

When we live under grace, we learn how to believe. We learn God’s identity as a Being who is loving, kind, just, patient, joyful, good, etc. We learn our identity as beings made of the same substance as God Himself.

When we are in a grace-based relationship with God, we also are loving, kind, just, patient, joyful, good, etc. It is the natural outflow of being “of God”.

In Romans 10, Paul goes on to declare that those who believe will never be put to shame by their belief. He quotes two more Old Testament passages as referring to this relationship with God that is based on grace and belief (faith) rather than on actions (law). He quotes Isaiah 28:16 (in the Greek translation) as saying, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” He also quotes Joel 2:32, which says, “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Paul’s conclusion is, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” (Romans 10:12) Once again notice that there is no racism in Christ.

Why say all this? Why know the difference between a grace-based life and a law-based life? Well, it is very important! Note that a grace-based life is lived from the inside out while a law-based life is lived from the outside in. Jesus has something to say about those who live from the outside in.

Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26

A consistent theme in the teachings of Jesus is the importance of what is inside us.

Note how this same teaching of Jesus is described in Luke. “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” Luke 11:39-40

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus ties generosity with the poor to having a clean inside (heart)? It ties back to what I said yesterday about there being no classism in Christ.

Today as we go out, may we live from a place of grace and acceptance. May you come to know and understand the difference between living in condemnation and living in freedom! May you know that you know that you know that you are PERFECT, HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, LOVED, PRICELESS, A REFLECTION OF GOD’S IMAGE, A VESSEL OF GOD’S GLORY, ACCEPTED, CREATIVE, BEAUTIFUL, KIND…..

For your own sake and for the glory of God, BELIEVE!!!!!!!!

Cut off your hand literally? Ouch!

I have been reading Josephus, a Jewish historian born a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion. I have learned that people really did cut their hands off, literally, to demonstrate that they were going to no longer do something. Well, sometimes someone else cut off their hands to demonstrate that they could no longer do something. 

I am reading an ebook without page numbers, so I can not provide actual page numbers. However, by the time I have gotten to what must be the equivalent of page 10 out of about 950 pages, three people have lost their hands! Two have had their hands cut off by others. The third takes his sword in his right hand and uses it to cut off his left hand. Yuck! and ouch! 

Why was it done? Well, in one case,  it seems the Galileans cut off both of a rebel’s hands because of his rebellion. (Location 470) In another, Josephus, who was a military leader, has a rebel severely beaten, cuts off one of his hands, hangs it around the rebel’s neck, and sends the rebel back out to the other rebels around his house. (Location 404) 

But the other case is the one I found most intriguing because a rebel cuts off his own hand to spare himself getting both hands cut off instead. And so, Josephus notes, an end was put to this sedition. (Location 462) 

Such were the times in which Jesus lived! 

As I read the example of the man cutting off his own hand to spare his own hide, Jesus words came to life! 

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. Matthew 18:8

Jesus wasn’t talking about something which his listeners never saw. He was speaking about something with which they were intimately acquainted. In their society, rebels had their hands cut off to demonstrate their repentance and their powerlessness to continue fighting against the legitimate power. At least in some instances, they even cut off their own hands! 

Am I suggesting that Jesus meant for us to literally cut off our hands and gouge out our eyes in order to keep from sinning in our lives? 

Perhaps not. 

I am suggesting that Jesus was really serious about the consequences of sin. It really is a life and death matter. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Jesus knew this. 

Am I suggesting that our works or lack of sin is what saves us and gives us eternal life? 

Absolutely not! 

Romans 11:6 says, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” 

I am suggesting that we will reap what we sow. If we watch porn, if we curse and swear, if we gamble, if we overspend and live in luxury instead of caring for the poor, we will reap what we sow. 

Romans 6: 16 says, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” 

Today let us run the race well! Let us do whatever is necessary to get rid of that which destroys and kills! Let us be serious about loving God and loving our neighbor. With soft hearts, let us turn to the Lord and rejoice as we do His will! 

Information taken from The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, which can be purchased on Amazon

Do not do, rather believe and rejoice!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Even now, Father, for real? 

Yes, child, even now. 

Have you any idea of the difficulty of my circumstances? Do you know what I face? 

Yes. 

Then how can you say “now”? 

Because I have already won the victory for you. You need not gain it for yourself. 

Victory? What I feel is defeat. What I see is pain. Reason and logic say hope is vain and salvation is impossible. 

Oh, but my child. It has been won. It is done. I poured out my wrath against the pain of sin on my Son on the Cross. It is why He cried, “It is finished!” It is a finished work. The work of the Cross is finished. Victory has been won! 

But, then what do you want me to do?

My child, I don’t want you to do. I want you to believe. I want you to know your identity as my child. I want you to know you are a child of God. Recognize “of God” designates you as having a heavenly origin. Do not do, rather simply believe and rejoice! 

For concerning the righteousness that is by the Law, Moses writes: “The man who does these things will live by them.”But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or, ‘Who will descend into the Abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 1For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.

It is just as the Scripture says: “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Greek: The same Lord is Lord of all, and gives richly to all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:5-13

God is with us!

Yesterday I danced with joyful abandon before YHWH. (Unlike David in scripture, I kept all my clothes on.) In a dance studio where I once danced when I was an addict, broken and entirely believing the devil’s lies that I was worth nothing, I now danced with great joy in response to the wonderfully good news of my Jesus. It just so happens that seven and a half years after hitting my “rock bottom”, the church of which I am a member meets in dance studios I once danced in. 

The devil said, “You are worthless. You will never be able to survive without a substance or activity to give you hope. You will never be able to live without this.” 

God said, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people’, there they will be called the children of God.” (Romans 9:26

I danced because God has come to dwell with us. In the middle of the service, the pastor called a young mother forward. A baby was contentedly resting against his mother. We had a visible picture of Mary and Jesus. 

Suddenly it struck me that God has come to us as a baby. A little baby with a newborn cry. A little, helpless, gentle weak baby. I had noted this in preservice prayer as I had thanked God publicly for the gift of Jesus coming as a baby; but the visual seemed to bring it to my attention for the first time. 

God was a baby. 

Last night in meditation, I came to John 1:18.

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. 

God is with us! He has made Himself known. His coming as a baby is one of the many ways He has revealed Himself to us. 

Today be encouraged that God is with you! One of the epistles notes that He is not far from any of us. He is with us AND HE HAS MADE HIMSELF KNOWN!