Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Notes on Romans

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
I have been carefully reading and rereading the central argument of Paul's epistle to the Romans, and I have come to a few conclusions.

First off, I think many of us have a tendency -- or I should say, the tendency has been inculcated in us -- to read Paul's discussion of "the Law," and to want to apply it only to the Jewish or the Mosaic Law, thereby exempting our Law.  And I believe if we do this, we miss the entire meaning and purpose of this text.  After all, Paul was writing in relation to his Law.

Not to mention, that when we read these texts, in the conventional way of many Christians, as a diatribe against Jewish Law, it distorts our understanding of and demeans Judaism.  No, Paul is speaking to us (i.e., whomever is seeking to learn from this text), to our idolatrous thought-ways and patterns and conventions, and how we need to break ourselves free of them, and not proving how Christianity is superior to Judaism.  This is what is meant when Paul affirms that what God revealed to the Jews was perfect in every way; that he was seeking to fulfill that revelation, not transcend it.

So Paul here is writing to us about our own Law, which is to say, everything we conform to (and demand everybody else conform to), everything we use as a kind of social or spiritual ladder, to ascend higher than everybody else and prove how righteous we are. We all have laws we use in this way.  Christian Law.  Mormon Law.  Whatever Law you use to ascend to God.

And the whole point of his arguments about Law and Grace is to prove to us that we can never measure up to anything significant or win God's love in this way.

(And this doesn't mean, by the way, that Law is valueless.  Only that we are supposed to use it as an offering, as a way of expressing Love; not as a ladder; not as a hammer.)

And the culmination of this argument about Law is the text I've quoted above, from Romans 12:2.  Be not conformed to this world.  That is his summary of the proper attitude toward Law/Legalism.  And the rest of this chapter is about Love, and about the value of diversity, and about using our gifts to serve one another and care for each other.  (And the sermon in this chapter could be read every morning of my life as a reminder that this is what my day is supposed to be about.)

*****

I occasionally grieve that I am not able to hold a calling in the LDS Church, the Church that I have a testimony of and that is my spiritual home, where I feel the Spirit, and where I am most nourished.  Sometimes I feel as if my gifts are languishing, unused.

But the Spirit reminds me that gifts are only languishing unused if we don't use them.  And no one is stopping me from using my gifts to build up the Kingdom of God.

That is, no one is stopping me from using my gifts to love and serve others.

3 comments:

Ned said...

You love and serve many, through this blog and other means, face-to-face and electronically. Thanks for the post and the love and the service.

Duck said...

John, thank you for reaching out to me and wanting to meet while you were here for Sunstone. I had no idea when you would be coming to Utah- and, I have just had major surgery (total knee replacement), so I was unable to meet you this trip.

I hope all went well for you at Sunstone. Did you present this year? What was your topic? I would love to hear you present one day. And, would also love to meet you in person. :)

Thank you!

Happy day. Duck

J G-W said...

Ned, thanks.

Duck, I was sorry about the bad timing yet again!

Can you please email me again? I was trying to reach you by email in Utah, but it appears the only email addresses I have for you are outdated...