Friday, January 23, 2009

Romans 1 -- Easy Mistakes

As we begin the new book, Romans, we make a dramatic shift in focus of the writer. In the Gospel of Mark the writer was focusing on telling what happened in Jesus' life and the corresponding choices we must make. For Romans Paul, the writer, is not as concerned with telling us who Jesus is, and how Jesus lives, as he is concerned with how we conduct our lives as individuals and as the Body of Christ in light of the mission of Christ.

Romans 1 is a chapter full of great information that can be used for great harm the Body of Christ. Toward the end of the chapter Paul takes on the issues which create separation between humanity and God. Commonly this could be called sin, and God is not real excited about our sin. Through this section of Scripture Paul offers some listings of actions by people that cause the anger of the Lord to rise up. As he does this there is an easy mistake to be made. We can begin to see Paul's list as prescriptive. Meaning we see it as an exact listing of what is wrong and what is right. Clearly, there is right and wrong to be seen and discussed in this section. However, we must take great care as we explore what is at the heart of Paul's message.

Whenever we read the work of Paul we must remember Paul was not a theologian. While he was classically trained as a Pharisee, Paul does not function as a scholar outlining a systematic theology. Rather, Paul is a pastor who is writing to encourage the church to be the community of people God has called them to be. So when the list of things which cause the anger of the Lord to boil we must keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a universal list. It is a representative list is the types of things which cause us to be separate from God. Meaning if you are engaged in an activity which is not on the list, it does not mean you are totally in the clear. Those activities listed are apparently what was troubling the Roman church most.

It is nearly impossible to do justice to working with Romans 1 without addressing the issue of homosexuality. There are few issues more divisive in the church today. On both sides of the issue there is great passion about the rightness of the other side. Through this single issue the church has appeared to be more a place of hate than a place of love. So what are we to do with this issue? First, I believe the scriptures indicate homosexual activity is outside the bounds of what God would desire for humanity. In same breath all must remember we need not look far to find a corresponding activity in all our lives. Can I say 100% if homosexuality is in line with or against the will of God....No. I can share what I read in the scripture, and how I understand the teachings of God through the Scriptures. Additionally, I can share with you that in this issue we as humanity try to usurp the role of God. We are not to be in the management business, we are in the sales department. Let's let God sort out the details, and have us be concerned with how we live out our faith, lest we find ourselves on the Romans list.

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