Romans 15:5-6, 7; Prayer for Conflict & Harmony

5ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς ὑπομονῆς καὶ τῆς παρακλήσεως δῴη ὑμῖν τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖν ἐν ἀλλήλοις κατὰ Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, 6ἵνα ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἐν ἑνὶ στόματι δοξάζητε τὸν θεὸν καὶ πατέρα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

This is an interesting prayer, especially in view of yesterday’s post. Paul has alerted the community in Rome to get along prior to this prayer, and then he prays that “the God of endurance and encouragement” give (δίδωμι) the Romans a life of harmony according to Christ Jesus. Paul doesn’t pray for God to grace the Romans: merely give them a life that coheres with Jesus. Nor is it an end in itself: There is an aim that their shared life would have a public, doxological voice honoring “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now, I really love the trinitarian character of all of this prayer! The request is for God to give the Romans a life that God already finds acceptable, welcomed, and suitable to be in his presence: and implicitly, that the Spirit would give the Romans the kind of experience of praise, honor, and glorifying of God that eternally goes on between the Father and the Son.

What I also note here is that Paul understands that conflict will happen among people, especially when groups are gathered that are ethnically-diverse as well culturally different from one another. And, he trusts-hence his prayer- that Jesus Christ will unite them into his mission and will do so via praise of the God of Israel. What Paul is not looking for- and correct me if I am wrong- is theological homogeneity among them. Instead, he says the following:

7Διὸ προσλαμβάνεσθε ἀλλήλους, καθὼς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς προσελάβετο ὑμᾶς, εἰς δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

That is pretty strong talk: no denying of conflict, but there is an ethic of hospitality that supersedes ideological conformity, i.e., inasmuch as Christ has welcomed you- and you most certainly don’t have complete and total conformity to Jesus- welcome others. The Spirit can do this in your life.

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Romans 13:14- A unique act of faith in the public context?

ἀλλὰ ἐνδύσασθε τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, καὶ τῆς σαρκὸς πρόνοιαν μὴ ποιεῖσθε εἰς ἐπιθυμίας.

This is a great declaration and imperative! Paul has lots of momentum as he anticipates the fulfillment of the eschaton; and his idea of welcoming Christ is to reject contemporary forms of celebration and to embrace all of Jesus via the Spirit. Such an embrace summons our faith in God, along with an ethic to love your neighbor as yourself (13:9).

None of this happens behind closed doors.

Romans 1:8; Fond Memories of World Changers

Πρῶτον μὲν εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν, ὅτι ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν καταγγέλλεται ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”

While reading this back on Ash Wednesday, my mind flooded with memories of both my Greek intensive in seminary and all of the international students I knew who had returned home or throughout the planet and walk faithfully with Jesus.

On the first day of my Greek class, our grad-student instructor wrote Rom. 1:8 in Greek on the board. He worked out the grammar for every word, and then gave us his English translation of the text. He then prayed for us that the world would know of our faith in Christ throughout the earth. Coming from an educational system that had been public, not only was I delighted for his faith, but overjoyed that the instructor could pray before class began.

On the last day of my Greek class, our instructor wrote Rom. 1:8 again on the board. You could have heard a pin drop: on the carpet. We all understood the text: no need for the instructor to work out the grammar. I recall reading, and feeling, “Paul is praying thanksgiving to God in Christ for a people whose faith is being announced around the world.” That feeling was not in English! 🙂

Back to Ash Wednesday 2011: And having read the above, my mind ran back to friends who have returned to HongKong before 1997, and continue to serve and give witness to the Gospel; I-students who have returned to France, Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, India, China, Korea, and Japan. It’s a little humbling to think of the gift of friendship and partnership in the Gospel that I’ve received from God in these friends. And it’s great to consider the kindness and graciousness of God through Jesus Christ to grant such friendships with world changers.