Unity or Uniformity?


S (Scripture): Romans 1:1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. 2 This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name. 6 You also are among them, called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 To all those loved by God in Rome, called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

O (Observation):  Paul is thick.  Like fudge brownie mix thick.  These verses are so packed with meaning and relevance.  For today…a 30,000 foot view…

Paul knows that Jews and Gentiles are starting to believe in Jesus Christ, made to be the Son of God, the first of all to be resurrected, and that all who believe in him (as the Messiah and Son of God) are given grace and responsibility (apostleship) to share this news with the whole world.   

The Church in Rome (like many places in Paul’s day) is a mix of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus as the Christ, and so Paul goes about addressing BOTH of them in this letter to the Church in Rome.  He mentions that Jesus is a son of David in the flesh (a part of the Jewish lineage from Abraham) and yet he appeals to the Gentiles, too, noting that the Gospel is extended to them, as well.  

In sum, Paul is addressing Jewish and Gentile Christians of the Church in Rome.  

A (Application): What to do with Paul?   He’s trying really hard to bring a word of peace to a divided church.  He’s making the case for Jewish Christians to respect Gentile Christians and vice versa. 

You’ll have to keep reading through Romans to see what I mean.   Paul calls on Jews to respect the fact that their faith (or even Abraham) is not their ticket to salvation: God’s grace is the key factor.   And he will tell the Gentiles, just because you don’t have to follow the traditions of the Law, doesn’t mean you get to do whatever the heck you want.  You must still respect that the struggle of good and evil still exists.  

The Church in America is very much divided today.   Who follows what traditions?  What is required of the Church and its people?   How do we seek unity without uniformity?

Here is a relevant quote from Richard Rohr in his daily email from today (3/7/17): 

Unity is diversity embraced, protected, and maintained by an infinitely generous love. It takes grace and love and the Spirit to achieve unity. Uniformity can be achieved by coercion, shame, and fear. Unfortunately, most churches have confused uniformity with true spiritual unity for centuries. But church formed in this way is by definition not the church. As Catherine LaCugna says, “The nature of the church should manifest the nature of God.” 

Let’s keep on journeying through Romans this Lent.  Good fodder awaits.  

P (Prayer): Lord, keep us mindful of the “other.”   Amen.  

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