GROVE CITY —
This past week or so, I began reading the book of Romans again.
It never ceases to amaze me how, no matter how often I’ve read through each book of the New Testament, I always seem to find new inspiration, new information, and a willingness to apply it to my daily life.
As I’ve started re-reading the scriptures, I’m finding once more that the apostle Paul seems to be the one who I can relate to the most. Paul wrote Romans to the church in Rome as he was finishing up his third missionary journey. He writes to them on the subject of righteousness; he tells them that no one is righteous to start, but that righteousness comes through faith in Christ. He gives them words of wisdom and encouragement about how to live and what it means to be a Christian.
I’ve always been drawn to Paul, ever since receiving Christ as my savior when I was in my mid-30s. I’m not entirely certain why, but I think part of it is because of how Paul, himself, converted to Christianity. He was a persecutor of the early Christians, a fervent Jew and the son of a Pharisee, who wanted to see Christians arrested and convicted--even murdered--for their loyalty to Christ.
Instead, God had other plans for Paul and set about a dramatic transformation for him on the road to Damascus. Jesus spoke to him directly and asked him outright, “Why do you persecute me?” He then blinded Paul and gave him a vision. He was told that he would be healed and he would go on to do great things in the name of Christ and that people would come to faith through his witness. He was told that his sins would be washed away--and they were (Acts 22:1-21).
Of course, his life was instrumental to the history of Christianity. God used Paul, despite his past.
The thing that is pretty incredible is how, despite who he once was, we find him in the book of Romans instructing the Romans how to live better lives--righteous lives! In today’s world, people would attack him and call him a hypocrite. They would say, “How dare Paul tell us how to live! He has no right!” Yet he did just that. He spent the rest of his life doing that; bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ.
In fact, in Chapter 14, he talks to the Romans about how they shouldn’t judge those who are weaker in their faith, but encourage them. He tells them to “accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Paul said this; the man who, before his faith, was a murderer of Christians.
What a change! What a miracle!
I mean, if he can do it, why can’t we? We are certainly as unjust as Paul began. Yet, sadly, most of us do not. I have found that even in the church, there is the problem of self-righteousness above the righteousness that our God calls us to live. We have a problem with picking apart our fellow Christians, chastising them for how they dress, how they live, and the personal choices they make in their lives.
We find ourselves getting very comfortable with our own little circles of “trusted” individuals with whom we surround ourselves. We feel we can count on them to uphold the outside appearance of what the “perfect” Christian appears to be, and it’s a safe zone for us. I fear it to be one of the biggest weaknesses in our churches today: the division of the congregation due to self-righteousness. I think it’s sad to witness first-hand and I feel it should be addressed regularly among every congregation.
We are told we all have gifts we can use, whether it be serving, teaching, leading, and even just showing mercy to those people who have found the road all uphill.
Paul goes on to say in Chapter 15 that those who are strong ought to build up those who are weak. We need to spend less time looking down our noses at those we feel are struggling in their walks and more time reaching out to uplift and encourage them. He tells the Romans that they should be devoted to each other in brotherly love, and that love should be sincere. Share with God’s people who are in need. In doing so, they will experience the peace and joy from doing what is in God’s will and not their own.
My hope is that God will find a way to use me to do some good in someone else’s life. I can’t begin to count the many times one of my own Christian brothers or sisters reached out to me when I was weak and continued to uphold me as I’ve struggled throughout my own journey along the way.
It’s remarkable to me that, even though I’ve read the words Paul wrote before, their meaning and importance never changes, but instead continues to enhance my life and inspire me to do more and be better.
I hope as each of us begins a new week, we can make even one small change or step just a little more out of our own comfort zones in outreach to those with whom we share our faithÉ and also to those with whom we do not. I hope we can each discover what our own gift is that God has given us along our own “road to Damascus,” and use it to further the Kingdom of God.
God bless and have a great week!
Lisa K. Alessio is a lifelong writer and resident of Grove City. She writes on life, faith and family for Allied News. Reach her at alongthe firstname.lastname@example.org.