Note: This is an experiment in posting my responses to the book of Romans. This is not a driven and focused commentary. It is more of a personal response.
(Reading Romans 1-3 might help you see were I am coming from.)
Wow. I make God so small and manageable, fitting perfectly with my own preconceptions and deceptions. God is truly to be feared. If not on our knees, we should be on our face. Forgive us Father for attempting the ludicrous task of shackling you. I shake before your hand and groan beneath your mercy. Free me from myself and the inane wanderings of my being. My words are insufficient, gifted only to point your way. I love you. (Personal prayer here inserted.)
(This next bit is a response to Romans 4.)
Paul is the man, a man, a really good writin’ man. His ability to soothe and subdue is unsurpassed. God inserts him into the middle of the early Church like a human cannonball wielding a scalpel. It is interesting that with all the epic Moses, Noah, Jesus movies, there has been no Paul classic. His ministry is a regular firebed. First, for the Jews, and then for the Gentiles. Righteousness through faith, which is a gift. God does all the work.
(And Romans 5.)
This chapter is a focus test. The mind that wanders here will not survive. This is divine mathematics where all is not equal, but all is good. Paul writes with such fervor here that his words are like flying fists of pugilistic celebration. Justifying the law is a a daunting task. The law is that 20 pound lead life preserver. It is such a joyous tool of judgment and self abdication of guilt. Its like a sin sniffing dog that always puts its nose in your crotch. Ruh-Row! But then comes freedom. Christ reigns; Christ rules. We can stand unashamed and sing.
(Additional response to Romans 1.)
Bad sex- That is what this passage is most famous for. Men having sex with men, something becoming ever more popular in our society. But why do we seize on this? Is it just the revulsion, which is significant? Or is it something closer to the nature of this “abomination”? I think, we think we’re losing. Righteousness is swirling down the dirty toilet bowl of our society. Something like that. We set up taboos and implicit condemnations surrounding sexual sins. Promiscuous=whore (if you’re a girl). Adultery=cheater. Masturbation=deviant. Pre-marital sex=degenerate. Homosexuality=you know. Those bubbles are popping though.
(Here comes Romans 6.)
Good old Britney Spears. “I’m a slave for you” came the lyric with the appropriately creepy music video. Usually, we do not see slavery in the most positive light. Many men, women and children have died in this under the banner of that moniker. It continues today in the shadows, a world of broken sexuality. So, it is easy to say that, oh yes, we do not want to be a slave to sin. Sin is bad, a real bummer. But righteousness, I mean that word just sounds cool. Righteousness, the rightness of God to whom we are slaves. Wait, what? We’re slaves?! Yep. 24/7, 365, All day, every day. Hopefully, you will realize that we are a crappy master, and in the end, without Christ, it is our most base instincts that drive us. Faith without works is dead, but works without faith is just plain sad. I am hitching my wagon to the Christ stampede. We have a Savior, and we need (and have) a master, a Lord. A slave to the Lord lives with so much more freedom than any man who falsely believes he is the captain of his own ship.
(Moving to Romans 7 and 8.)
Wow. This book is like a brick, dense. Skimming the book of Romans would be like taking a day to search the ocean. God is so, so different from the world. We are always climbing and climbing, and then, we are surprised when the ladders break and burn. There is so much of that “poor is bad and rich is good” mantra proclaimed to our hearts and heads. And there is the equally damaging converse that “poor is good and rich is bad,” as if in some ways our material state is indicative of life value.
But what I really like about these chapters is the description of the two laws and the navigation betwixt. Faking one’s death is that sort of sort of cool, exotic thing you see on the Lifetime channel and in soap operas. But Paul takes it one step further, and says we really die. That first law, dogged by the pull of sin and the wretchedness of our spirit, no longer applies to those who die. How could it? That would be silly. But death is just the beginning, as so many cheesy movies have proclaimed. We live again with Christ, bound to Christ, and so are subject only to the law of the Spirit of life. It is a law that brings freedom without condemnation. It is a law that guides a person, not divides a person. It is the harbinger of heart comfort, rather than being temporally comfortable. It means God wins and death loses. Let the whole world hear. Christ is King and He will reign forevermore. That’s pretty sweet.
(Chapters 9 and 10 of Romans)
Paul is really trying to hammer it out here. He is not saying that the Jews had their shot, screwed up, and now they are out of the picture and it is the time of the Gentiles. He, also, is not saying that Christianity is the next step in Judaism to the extent that all non-Jews are excluded. In Paul’s writing, I perceive an intense excitement for inciting truth, but also a frustration with a blocked audience. I believe we see Christ experiencing this as well, for example, when he laments an “unbelieving generation”. I particularly like Chapter 10 verse 6-7. It is easy to freak about specific individuals and heaven and hell. Note: John Calvin interprets this verse quite differently, but I am going simply on my understanding at this time. Chapter 9 is a Job like rebuke of our critical analysis of what God should and should not do. It is for us a moment to think about what we want to say and then . . . don’t. God is God; man is man. If that isn’t clear to us, then life is going to be real colorful. For one, I am thankful to have an awesome Boss rather than try to be an entrepreneur of eternity. It still makes me a little unsure how to discuss my faith with Jews, but I think the Holy Spirit is going to help me with that one. May my life be a signpost pointing to Christ for those who are called into His Kingdom. I believe Lord, help me Lord in my unbelief.
(Here comes Romans 11)
This is kind of a maze, an amazing maze. Paul is here to say something more than mere platitudes. He trying very hard to create analogies for a very cerebral process. Not everyone who he is writing to is a theoretical logician, if there is such a thing. Imagery here is agrarian in nature. The tree emphasizes the supremacy of Christ and the frailty of man. It is an effective way of dismantling the “God loves me more” argument. The tree can survive without the branches, but the branches can not survive without the tree, unless ingrafted as discussed here. This chapter feels like a reassurance for jittery followers and would be followers of Christ. The doxology at the end of the chapter says God’s got it. Phew. That’s good because I know I don’t.
(Romans 12 is present.)
Living Sacrifice. That sounds like a metal band. There probably is a Christian metal band named that. Just checked the Old Google, there is one. That coupling is an epic combination of words. The idea that sacrifice is willfully ongoing is quite cool. There is a definite shift in this chapter from intricate theology to who and what a Christian is. Can we do this, or are we so embattled that “the world is a vampire” and are crosses are the only thing that distance us from the wickedness. Life is hard. Being a Christian is hard; not being a Christian is hard. But the war is won. Our foes are principalities not people. In the age of more boobs and more blood makes the news, let us remember and not forget the thing we most shared with Christ, our humanity. Snarls signal stupidity. Smiles signal understanding (hopefully).
(And lucky Romans 13)
Um, yeah. This one is a bit tough to swallow. I am at a loss for words, for once. I don’t understand, yet. Your thoughts are welcome.
It seems that Paul has concluded a big picture message and is now addressing the perennial persnickety. It is amazing the length people will go to assert supremacy through trivial legalism. I can hear Paul sigh as he writes this. I guess it is understandable though. The current trend in Judaism was that holiness was a function of observances, strict ritual behavior, and general exclusion. For us, today, I think the brother stumbling part is the most interesting. Is it the Rob Thomas “change my life to better suit your mood” or is there some less sullen, sarcastic, surly, and smug maxim. I think our de facto compass comes from the servanthood unto the Lord. It’s not about the sacrifices we make; it’s about the service we are blessed to be apart of. This chapter causes me to explore my motives, not simply my actions. That’s a lot scarier.