The letter to the Romans, written by the Apostle Paul in the first century AD, is a great read filled with inspiration, challenge, and a big vision of what it means to live.
I’ve started scouting through it again recently and have a loose ambition to work all the way through, from start to finish, to see what I come up against. Here, at least, is a beginning.
“You ain’t left out in the cold”
Paul starts his letter with a declaration of identity. He is loving and loyal… a servant. He doesn’t exist for himself. The key player in the first paragraph is Jesus. Jesus is the one who calls Paul, calling him to be an apostle, a sent one. And what is he sent for? He is sent as part of the mission to reveal God’s good news.
Paul is shaped first and foremost – from start to end and all the way through – by his identity (which is a new identity as a servant of Jesus). And the mission he’s on has a special component: his faithfulness to those who share this new identity. These are people who have also been changed by Jesus.
He’s writing now to them in Rome, to the Roman house churches. When you think ‘church’ in the this context it’s a bit different, we’re certainly not talking the long-established institution that we perhaps are used to in contemporary New Zealand or around the world, with all the complications that have been around for hundreds of years.
No, he’s speaking to a young movement. And he starts with encouragement. You are not here by accident! You are here by divine intent.
He has a vision of the kind of people these chosen ones could become: the kind of people they could become is the kind of person Jesus is. And what is Jesus like? He is holy.
The highest, most delight-filled, energetic and active prayer that Paul can offer for his spiritual whanau or family members in Rome is that they would be holy. That is to say, that they would take on the characteristics, vitality, and vibrancy of the life of their leader, King Jesus. And they ain’t left out in the cold with Jesus.
Acting out of his sense of apostolic authority (i.e. harnessed to God’s purpose and vision for the world) he sends grace and well-being, joy and blessing from God to his friends.