I salute you! — how integrity and interaction can unify the church once and for all

Romans 16
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embracingdifferences

Everyone is a little different, and this should be celebrated. It’s what makes us human.

Yet history proves that humanity seizes this opportunity to suppress and/or murder groups who disagree with their ideals, or have differences beyond their control.

When I was in kindergarten, I had a friend named Lamons, and after school one day I let my mom know I wanted a haircut like him because I liked how curly it was. When she understood that my friend was black, she gently explained to me that this was impossible; it was only later that I recognized differences like this.

What I find quite refreshing and lovely about the Bible is that it chops right down the middle and leaves no room for waffling. But for some reason, we still take the liberty to find differences and fringe doctrines and fiddle with already established truths. This creates division and makes us quite ineffective. But we can do something about it.

This chapter invoked a variety of topics, all of which cover the theme of unity in love. I hope this blog isn’t too disjointed for you, yet I also hope you might find something edifying or encouraging here today.

Votes for women!

It has required great effort historically for women to acquire equal footing with men with regard to rights.  This would have been resolved more quickly if people had read the last chapter of Romans thoroughly.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie “Mary Poppins” is in the opening sequence, where Mrs. Banks returns from a women’s suffrage meeting and rouses her maids to join with her in a triumphant pastiche. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and her motivation, speaking from the perspective of a 1910s British woman, is completely warranted.

But it seems like Paul has no problem heralding women in his letter, despite a heavily masculine cultural context, giving props to several ladies for their remarkable deeds. Paul praises Phoebe in particular, and implores the recipient of the letter to trust her with “whatever business she has need.”

In the context of the Bible, it is clear that, in the structures of marriage and church, the men are called to lead, but in no way are women created to be second rate citizens.  Remember, an angel presented himself to Mary first; she is also the first to see Jesus’ empty tomb.

Dividing ones and zeroes

God intends for the church to be one — several passages point to this sentiment — yet church leaders like to call out how badly other churches are doing it wrong. I’ve even seen churches ranked in magazines based on attendance and rate of growth, as if each entity is a corporation looking to acquire a market.

Well, that’s what church has become, and every casual observer sees it. But what’s worse is when church leaders present “revolutionary ideas” which draw hordes of fringe believers crying for tolerance or acceptance of all behaviors.

Note that Paul is talking about those that present ideas contrary to doctrine.  Unfortunately, some of your megachurches or those people you “like” on Facebook are feeding the Christian public with weak, unsound doctrine that is contrary to what the Bible says, further dividing the body despite the size of their flock.  And what does the Bible say about these people? Avoid them.

The Word of God cuts down the middle.  Do we really need the church to be comprised of even more little pieces? Let the Bible speak for itself, and keep opinions or revolutionary interpretations out of it.

I salute you

After extensive instruction, Paul takes the time to devote a significant portion of his letter to greeting, or in some translations “saluting”, several believers around the region.

I find it quite obnoxious that the entirety of “greeting” in church today is reserved for a time assigned during service to “greet one another” for about 45 seconds, or, if people have the time/motivation, at a weekly Bible study. Unfortunately for the introvert or less courageous, these encounters are much more rare, if not entirely absent, because they typically don’t initiate social interaction.

In the past 30 years, something awesome has been happening called the internet, and everyone’s doing it. It allows for instant social contact, albeit much less personal, ranging from e-mail to chat rooms to instant messaging.  Facebook allows for endless interaction. When’s the last time you sent someone an arbitrary message of encouragement? It’s surprisingly effective.

Meanwhile, we can do better when our hands are off our phones or keyboards. Ask how someone is doing, and listen.  The last thing we need in church is more plastic faces and insincere churchy phrase swaps. People think we’re hypocritical enough; why carry on with false love?

 

 

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