Friday, February 24, 2017

Romans 1 Radical Equality

A Friends (Quaker) Perspective on Romans and Galatians
Provided several years ago for Illuminate, an adult Sunday School curriculum published by Barclay Press, a Friends publishing house

Lesson 1
Romans 1:1-6, 14-17

The theme of slavery and freedom runs throughout Romans. Even the word “Lord” can mean “Owner.” Paul is the slave of Jesus, sent out with a message, a gift for the outsiders of his world, the Gentiles. This message is the good news about God that Jesus taught and lived. When this good news moves us to faith, to trust in the character and power and love of God, we are also slaves sent out with a message. We act on behalf of our owner, Jesus, and we share the good news with our own version of outsiders.

This necessity to take the good news to others moved George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), in the mid-1600s. He wrote in his Journal that the Lord let him see a great people to be gathered (Ch. 6). “When the Lord God and His Son Jesus Christ sent me forth into the world to preach His everlasting gospel and kingdom, I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward Light, Spirit, and Grace, by which all might know their salvation and their way to God; even that Divine Spirit which would lead them into all truth…”(Ch. 2). We can hear in “commanded” the same sense of obligation that moved Paul.

Also like Paul, Fox shared the good news with all levels of society, from nobility to beggar. He made no difference between social classes, so he took off his hat to no one, which witnessed to the essential equality of all before God. Though it is difficult for Paul to say, he does affirm that the good news is as much for the Gentiles, the Greeks and the barbarians, as it is for the Jews.

Why might Paul—or we—be ashamed of the good news?  For one thing, it removes our own class or status. Everyone who believes it becomes a slave of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t belong to any one group. It is common. It strips everyone down to essentials, like being born again. The good news is the energy of God, the strength of God that pushes all who believe God towards deliverance, freedom, salvation.

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