Monday, 4 July 2016

There’s More...

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Where do we see the power of God at work? According to Paul, in how God puts the world to rights, not least in saving people – everyone who believes, Jew or Gentile. That’s where Paul begins his letter to the Christians in Rome – with the gospel, the good news of God’s reign, which is centred on Jesus and rooted in the biblical story.

So it is that the letter takes in our rebellion against God and our alienation from each other; what Christ has done on our behalf, supremely in his death and resurrection; the importance of faith as the means by which we’re made right before God, brought into covenant relationship with him; our new life in Christ; the work of the Spirit in our lives; the hope extended to all creation. We get to the end of chapter 8, where Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love, and we breathe a deep and gratified sigh. Some of us may even allow an ‘Amen’ to break our lips! What a great letter this is, and what an amazing finish.

Until we turn over the page, and discover there’s more... In fact, we’re only half-way through.

Paul now writes about the place of Israel in God’s purposes. Although we might not fully understand the discussion, it’s clear that God is working out his plan, and we’re grateful to read the outburst of praise at the end of chapter 11: ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ... To him be the glory for ever!’ And here the ‘Amen’ is supplied for us! We sink back with a sense of being overwhelmed at how great God is. There can’t be anything more to add, can there?

And then we turn over the page and read... Therefore.

There’s yet more. God’s ‘more’ in this case is seen in a community of Christians from diverse backgrounds who offer the worship of their very selves to God, and who embody a set of values characterised by mutuality and love, not only in their relationships with one another but in their witness to others in the world around them.

This is where the letter has been heading towards: those of us who follow Christ walk in his footsteps. Wonderfully, and strange though it may seem, this too is part of God’s great plan for the world.

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