If the fruits of the Spirit are present – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control – then two followers of Christ can have different political views and still be in community together.
I want to highlight three ways “the obedience of faith” Paul is talking about in the letter to the Romans differs from “civil religion” so that we can gain clarity in 2022 to the radical nature of the Gospel as we consider what it means to follow Jesus in our culture today.
Rivalry is defined as “competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.” I’ve crisscrossed the globe and in every country, city and culture I’ve seen, there is rivalry. Where people are, rivalry is too. But why? Where does rivalry come from?
We all have positions that we hold. In fact, most, if not all of us, are managing multiple positions, sometimes at the same time. You may have a position at work as a boss or employee, or both. You may have a position at home as a parent. If you serve at a church, you may hold a position as a volunteer. These positions are important because with them comes responsibility, and impacts the people around you.
Can you remember a time you felt important? It feels good doesn’t it? We all long for that feeling and feel such comfort when we experience it. We all have different aspirations, desires, plans, likes, and dislikes, but it seems that regardless of our differences, we all share a universal desire to feel and be valued.
When you read the Christmas story do you ever wonder why it’s so modest? Think about it, the King of Kings, Lord of all creation, Savior of the world, God Himself, is making His first appearance on earth in the flesh, His “debut” so to speak, and He comes as a newborn. Not even a newborn of a family with status, but a newborn to a 15 year old in a small country town that no one was thinking about. But then again, that’s the Kingdom of God, right?
As a kid growing up, I was constantly being reminded that there was an invisible line that I had to “watch out” for in order to not get in trouble for something. The trick was to figure out where the line was, so that I wouldn’t be in danger of accidentally crossing it. This idea carried into my faith-walk as well. My life as a Christian became about lines not to cross.
One of the general undercurrents of the New Testament is Jew and Gentile relations, who were strangers in one another’s eyes. Which is why Romans is the first letter after the Gospels and Acts because it lays out a comprehensive understanding of why hospitality was, and is, a key ingredient in the mission of God. And it’s why Paul can look at Romans, Christians, Jew and Gentile, and say, “welcome others, as God in Christ, has welcomed you” (15:7).
For the next few weeks on the blog we are going to be exploring the topic of Hospitality from a biblical perspective. Both globally and locally, there is a desperate need for a fresh obedience to this often neglected biblical command. Could it be that many of the ills that plague us today could be greatly muted if the people of God could hear with fresh ears Paul’s exhortation to the early Romans? He says, “Welcome others, just as God, in Christ, has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7).
This weekend, parties will be thrown, grills will be full, fireworks will be shot and fun will be had. It is good to celebrate July 4th. It is also good to do so sober mindedly, for the cultural and spiritual forces at work in our land right now are very strong, threatening to pull us apart at the very seams.