Today we continue reflecting on this passage from the letter to the Romans. The apostle Paul, the author of this letter, is an expert in Jewish law and had lived his life obeying it. He was part of the Pharisees, an important religious group. Because of this religious and social context, Paul had followed carefully the rules that separated Jews from Gentiles and did not relate to anybody who was a Gentile. Paul’s zeal to obey God’s law had gone so far that before believing in Jesus he mercilessly had persecuted, punished, and killed Christians.
But when Paul encounters Jesus, the experience completely transforms his life. God chooses him to share the gospel of Jesus with the Gentiles, those he had once despised.
With this background in mind, we recognize further depth in Paul’s statement that there is no difference between Jew and Greek, or Jews and Gentiles. These words go against everything Paul once believed. Paul recognizes that God has torn down the wall of separation to bring salvation for all, not just for a chosen few.
In our own communities we too have been taught to despise certain people who society deems less worthy and to exclude them from our circles and even from the church. As followers of Jesus we are called to challenge those beliefs and practices and to include the excluded. The transforming message of the gospel is for all, and all who believe belong in the body of Christ; for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
God of grace, thank you for reminding us once more that through your loving grace you became one of us to offer us salvation by faith in Christ. Continue reminding us to share that salvation even with those who have been excluded in our communities. Amen.
As we begin the season of Lent, the readings provide several images of how we might prepare our hearts. Deuteronomy focuses on gratitude with a recitation of the history of God’s faithfulness. The people are instructed to offer their gifts to God as a response to God’s generosity. The psalmist focuses on faithfulness. If we put our confidence in God, God will protect and sustain us. In Romans, Paul emphasizes faith. Our confession of faith from the mouth should come from the heart, and this heart confession saves us. The story of the temptation of Jesus admonishes us to know biblical truth. The devil tempts Jesus with half-truths—even scriptural quotes—but Jesus counters with correct understanding of God’s word and God’s character.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. We no longer offer physical sacrifices to God. How do you give the “first fruits” of your labor to God in thanksgiving?
Read Psalm 91:2, 9-16. Recall a time you have felt abandoned or insecure. How did God respond to your call?
Read Romans 10:8b-13. Paul learned to see those he once despised as his equals in Christ. Whom does God call you to learn to love?
Read Luke 4:1-13. How do you follow Jesus’ example to use scripture to resist temptation?
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