Simple argument; lots of words

9 Jul

Good morning,

I am beginning to regret taking on Romans.  Paul really is trying to discuss just one revision to the Jewish faith, but he is going on and on and on.  Think about the discussion and decision to legally recognize marriage between person of the same gender.  That conversation has gone on and on, and it does change our ideas about what marriage is and who is allowed to claim that legal status.  The weight of that change for our world is much the same as the significance of the changes that Paul is asking for in his world.

Paul’s argument is that those who say “God is on our side” because that are a circumcised Jew who has the law of God are not any better than anyone else if they do not keep that law.  In the time of Jesus, and Paul, the Jewish leadership had become very corrupt (Leadership being corrupt; can you imagine??).  So, Paul is arguing that if you have the law of God, but do not obey the law, then what good is it to be a Jew.  AND, some people who are not Jews are following the essence of God’s law better than they are.

It is the same argument that I sometime hear today about people who are Christians and those who are not Christian.  People outside of the church sometimes behave better than those inside the church.  It is a ancient argument that begins with Paul in his effort to open the grace to God to all who will follow.  We have grown up with this understanding of the non-discriminatory nature of God’s love, (Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors) so we sometimes miss the earth shattering change for which Paul is making his plea.

Please read Paul’s words in Romans 2.   Although Jesus was raised from the dead, and the Holy Spirit descended in a way that had not happened before in our world, Paul explained how it made a difference for our daily lives – where the rubber hits the road.

12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

I am thankful today for Paul persistence, intelligence and articulation of the changes that God brought into our world.  After all, God brings the winds of change into our world, then the institutional religious organizations have to figure out how to tame them, harness them, or dissipate them.

Peace and blessing

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