Posts Tagged ‘Romans’

Opposites. Either I judge others quickly, forgetting I am equally fallen; or, I wash over reality because I want everything to be smooth sailing. (Don’t rock the boat.) Both ways are problematic and reflect denial.

Romans 15:7
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Paul writes that we must accept one another but the acceptance must be based on truth. It’s not about accepting someone as we “wish” he or she might be (eventually) but accepting what is really there. That’s not particularly easy if the person is difficult.

I confess, I withhold a lot of my acceptance of others based on their behaviors. I accept them “up to a point,” but not really. And yet, Christ accepted me right where I was 30 years ago: alcoholic, drug-dependent, crass, slovenly, and immoral. Jesus did not wait until I got my act together or became approachable. I was book smart but Bible naive. I didn’t know I needed a savior. I didn’t believe I needed anyone.

The stories of Jesus show his ability to accept others over and over again. It’s one of the reasons the Pharisees and “teachers of the law” chastised him: eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus allowed himself to touch, listen, and understand others who were immersed in sin but was confident in the Spirit of the Father within to keep him centered and whole. Jesus knew Himself.

Historically, I have been a bit of a chameleon and unconscious mimic. When I lived in the South for a few years, I developed a pretty strong southern accent, just by sheer exposure. When my kids bring home slang from school, I find myself incorporating it into my daily language without effort. I am too much like a sponge.

One of my favorite illustrations of this phenomenon was years ago when I had my first real “day job” in an advertising agency accounting pool back in Chicago. Thirty women sat in rows of desks with calculators and piles of paper. Initially, I was the oddball, the hippie in my colorful clothes and wire-rimmed glasses who mocked those girls for talking every day about their dinners the night before and what they watched on television. A year later, I had become one with them. I was talking recipes, husbands, television soaps, and vacations. I had acclimated and conformed to the daily norm. It was a type of acceptance, but not the one that Jesus proposes.

It’s not about fitting in. It’s about being strong in heart.

Accepting others comes from within. Accepting others, based on truth, requires an honest assessment of oneself first, then others. Accepting others is a kindness, a type of love. Accepting others is inclusive. Accepting others gives permission for that person to simply “be.” Accepting others allows for differences.

Today, I know, I will be challenged to accept others. Keep me centered in order to be fully present in the reality of others. Keep my heart open and yet fully infused with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.

Read Full Post »

What is allowed: much more than I used to believe. My faith in God has grown exponentially and with that expansion, so has the umbrella of God’s grace grown in like manner.

Romans 14:22a, 23b
Your personal convictions [on such matters]–exercise [them] as in God’s presence. . . For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful].

This passage is full of personal freedom as long as faith is the foundation. Too many Christians have browbeaten one another into believing in a very small and narrow God who is watching and waiting for the followers to step out of line. I don’t think so anymore.

In my last Bible Study class, one of the participants said her family calls these rules the “makey-uppies” and I agree with her 100 percent. Like the Pharisees of old, many start making up additional interpretations of the law to keep the road as narrow as possible. Perhaps the scriptures about the way being narrow [Matthew 7:13-14] have caused believers to create a tiny, tiny door for faith. And as they squeeze through, they pat themselves on the back for being so narrow.

Here’s a better picture: the narrow way is more like the Tardis from the stories of Doctor Who. On the outside, his vehicle looks quite small, only as big as a British style phone booth, but once inside, it’s expansive and full of rooms and possibilities. This is the way of Jesus.

Read Full Post »

Today I am being asked to choose, consciously, to adapt my behavior for the sake of another. And that, not for just any “other,” but for a “sister/brother,” someone who shares my faith walk, who is in koinonia (community) with me. Hmmmm.

Romans 14:14b-15a
. . . But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat [by what you are doing], you are no longer acting in love. . . .

This challenges me because I have been working on authenticity so much lately. Historically, I have not believed I could “be my true self” around some my church friends. I perceive myself as slightly different from them, a little off-beat. I know I enjoy activities that some would consider inappropriate in their eyes (certain books & movies for instance). I have political points of view that may very well be quite different from their own.

I have resented this “duality” and I have wanted to “come out” (and no, I’m not saying I’m gay), to my church family. I just want to be real… authentic and transparent.

So, what do these passages from Romans tell me to consider?

Here’s what I think it has to be about for me: it’s a difference in attitude. The “hiding” of my true self before was based on assumptions. And yet, I don’t really know if what I do, think, or read is a stumbling block for someone else. I have rarely opened myself up to that degree. And so, I still think I need to continue this path of onion peeling. However, if my choices cause someone else distress, then I can consciously choose not to participate in these activities or conversations for the sake of the other.

Again, the difference is in the conscious choice for the sake of the other.

I need to think about this more. But for today, I just want to be more mindful of the reasons behind my behaviors, the roots. Assumptions are dangerous for everyone involved. But loving choices can be healing.

Read Full Post »

Just live my story, that’s all I am asked to do. If I could keep it clear in my head that it’s my own journey that is mine to share, to correct, to adapt, to transform, and unfortunately, to also withhold, warp, or destroy, then I wouldn’t be so judgmental of others.

Romans 14:10, 12
Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. . . . And so each of us shall give an account of himself [give an answer in reference to judgment] to God.

God has the end of all the stories in hand. I cannot know what is in the heart of another person or their struggles or their understanding in this moment. Each person’s way carries its own challenges. Truly, who am I to say whether this one or that one is doing the best with what has been given to bear. We are all trying to figure it out. We are all trying to make the best of it.

These passages from Romans are actually an invitation to freedom. It is not for me to carry another’s journey. I can walk beside. I can live fully in my own understanding of a life in Christ and it is in that living that others might experience contact with love, hope, joy, etc. But it is not for me to drag the unwilling along my way. Nor is it for me to condemn their way (for the path could change in a moment).

To help another is simply to be present with that “sacred other.” To help another is to give access to my heart and soul. It is only my authentic self that can give life. It is only the Christ within who can touch a life.

Oh Lord God, may my account in that last day be a testimony of discovery: more of Christ and less of me.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been watching the controversy unfold over health care reform in our country and the division, not only marches through party lines now, but even people of faith are finding themselves on opposite sides of “the aisle.” We must learn to disagree without “harsh judgments” of the other person.

Romans 14:1
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

There will always be “disputable matters” in our culture. We must take care, I think, to avoid condemnation of those with whom we disagree. We can participate in the political process by contacting and engaging our elected “authorities,” and we can work toward electing those we prefer, but we should not be harsh and critical with one another. There is no point.

Usually what happens is that we follow a particular pundit, someone we grow to trust, and as we listen to his/her take on a controversial subject we go along, “yes,” we think, “that sounds right.” And off we go repeating what we heard and even standing rigid on the ideas of another. But guess what? People are doing that on both sides of the equation.

I remember when my children were younger and we would pray with them before a sports game that God would give them victory. But then, one day, Kip asked me, “Does the other team pray too?” And there you have it. Yes, they do. They are also praying for victory. Who will win? God ultimately sorts these things out.

There are no Republicans or Democrats or Communists or Tea Parties in heaven. God is the great equalizer.

Read Full Post »

The simplicity and power of loving my neighbor as I love myself is staggering. But I don’t do it. I’m not just talking about the people who live next door of course. I mean that more challenging neighbor, the one typified in the parable of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37], possibly even an enemy.

Romans 13:9b-10
You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. Love does no wrong to one’s neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law.

I know, people roll their eyes when I start talking about the force of love. It all sounds so “cheesy” and “new-agey” or maybe it’s those memories of “flower power” and “free love” from the 60’s. But I keep running into this command as I study the scriptures and I think the repetition is worth noting.

Scot McKnight has it right when he espouses what he has coined the Jesus Creed, that basic tenet captured by Jesus when he was asked by the Pharisees, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” [Matthew 22:35-39]

Is my trouble in my inability to love myself? I know a lot of teaching has turned in on itself and somehow, the emphasis has shifted to loving self. Pretty funny, really. There are folks who can’t seem to get away from it “being all about them.” As though this practice of loving self would teach us to love another. I don’t think so.

Or is the problem in my definitions of love? Certainly Webster’s Dictionary doesn’t help much as there is so much emphasis on romantic and sexual love and that’s not the love that is meant for my neighbor (unless it’s “Housewives of Orange County” or whatever is the new “Peyton Place”).

Truthfully, I know enough about the love of scriptures to practice it if I really wanted to do it. Agape love is the term used here and it’s more sacrificial in nature. Agape love means I must step outside my comfort zone. And in the end, that’s the main reason I don’t practice it regularly. I don’t like being outside my comfort zone.

God forgive me.

Read Full Post »

Interesting juxtaposition of these words: taxes, revenue, respect and honor. In the arena of respect, it seems we hear more about earning respect than paying. Perhaps the greater problem is on the payment side. In the same way we cheat (just a little) on our taxes, we are probably cheating on respect.

Romans 13:7
Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Should someone or something be paid respect by position alone? Teens, in particular, unless drilled repeatedly, show more disdain for showing respect than any other debt. Position is no longer enough to garner respect.

I remember when there was a huge brouhaha when a woman’s sports team showed up at the White House to meet the President and a good number of them were dressed quite casually, including flip-flops. Some folks were up in arms about the “lack of respect.” I’m pretty sure the girls didn’t intentionally decide to diss the President the of United States by dressing down. It just didn’t occur to them that it might appear disrespectful.

But what does respect look like? Is it simply a matter of etiquette? Is it a set of actions or is it a frame of mind? To whom should we be paying respect?

I think we’ve missed the boat in our culture and as Christians, we should be picking up the slack. In the same way that we are to express love, we are to pay respect. We must show love and pay respect to the “sacred other.”

Instead of waiting for someone to “earn” respect, we should give it and something wonderful can happen. Can I do this? I really don’t know, but I want to think about it the rest of the day. Help me Lord to be mindful of you and your creation, to pay respect from the inside out.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: