Monday, July 04, 2005

Romans 14

I've always liked the book of Romans. Paul can be extreme sometimes, but he can be very moderate and even inclusive, too. He was the chief opponent, after all, of requiring Gentile converts to Christianity to be held to the Old Covenant, particularly the Jewish rite of circumcision. Romans, along with Galatians and 1st Corinthians, are good examples of this. In 1st Corinthians, he writes about the Body of Christ and how we must all be different for the Body to work. In Galatians, he writes that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. In Romans 14, Paul writes about differences between believers. I'll quote the The Message Remix paraphrase by Eugene H. Peterson because it is really very well-put. (I highly recommend this version for daily Bible reading, whether you've never read the Bible before in your life or you've got half of it memorized. It is easy to unerstan an really offers a fresh perspective.)

Romans 14:1
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with--even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

Paul uses different eating practices as an example. Since many Christians were converts from idol worship, there was a controversy over whether eating meat sacrificed to idols was a sin. Paul argued no... and yes. For the Christian who had never worshipped idols and saw nothing worshipful in eating meat dedicated to them, it was not. For the convert for whom eating sacrificed meat was worshipful, it was.

Romans 14:2-4
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

In Romans 14:22-23, Paul goes on to write:
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe--some days imposing your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them--then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.

I love these passages. They really are Paul at his best. The message is one all Christians need to take to heart, conservatives and progressives alike. There are a lot of issues on which people of faith can disagree, but we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to celebrate our differences.

I really like how my church puts it in our values statement. One of our values is "We value laughter, disagreement, and understanding." In our information brochure, it's fleshed out more. We value these things by:

Understanding it is possible for two people in good conscience and sound judgment to view the same situation in totally different ways....

Accepting the mysteries inherent in faith and nature of God. We do not have all the answers, nor do we aspire to. We tend not to believe anyone else who claims to either, other than God....

Putting judgment aside and trusting in God's wisdom as the ultimate change agent in people's lives.

Refusing to be a single issue or politically driven community, while accepting that our faith calls us to be compassionate and involved citizens.

To put this in the frame of my pet issue: if you're gay, you're welcome to the table. If you think same-sex relationships are sinful, you're welcome to the table. We all come from different places and God is a God of questions more than answers. He acts through people in ways we don't understand.

Even people who disagree with me.


At 8:53 AM, Blogger Liberator_Rev said...

Letter to the Romans 13:1-7
" Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them--taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. "

Anybody who really believes that this passage is inspired and inerrant would have to tell all of the Christian subjects of tyrants like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Min, Castro, Milosovich, and all the other monsters who have been in authority in the past, and any monstrer to come, that "GOD's WORD' compels "Christians" to obey such rulers : "there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. . . Therefore, whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed." Paul doesn't allow for the slightest bit of "interpretation". He drives home his point over and over again, that we should treat any and all rulers as God's very own appointees to whatever office they hold, be it governor, king, emperor, president, prime minister, secretary general, or F├╝hrer. No "ifs", "ands" or "buts" !
There are many wonderful, perhaps even "inspired" passages in Paul. On balance, it may even be possible to defend Paul, by quoting other passages which he wrote, such as Galatians, 3: 28 "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus". But the fact remains that his writings contain many passages that have provided and continue to provide biblical justification for some of the worst of Conservative biggotries. And biggots don't look for the total picture. They take what suits their evil purposes wherever they can find it, even when the context shows that they are misinterpreting a quotation. Knowing that, how can anyone imagine that God would allow his name to be attached to the treasure trove of bigotry found in the writings of Paul of Tarsus?

See http://www.LiberalsLikeChrist.Org/PaulvsAll


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