Thursday, August 22, 2019

For some it is shame but for others it is fame!

The world is after fame. The greatest goals are to be famous and rich.
There is a way of being known though it may not make you rich. Let me explain.
Paul begins his letter to the Romans with thanksgiving and prayer. He does so in most of his letters. The reason for thanksgiving is that their ‘faith is proclaimed in all the world’ (1:8). Here, 'faith' is not the dogma or the act of believing. Faith here means how one struggles to keep what one has come to believe as true.
We don’t know how the believers in Rome were famous for their faith. It is clear from the latter part of this epistle that Paul knew many of them by name (Rom 16:1-16). We may guess that many of the believers or even the church collectively had to struggle to keep their faith alive in hostile circumstances. Their battles to keep their faith might have become known in all the churches all around the world. Note that Paul later commends them also for their obedience that had become famous all over the world (16:9). In similar ways, the church in Thessalonica was also known around the world among the believers for their faith (1 Thess 1:8).
Being known for the steadfastness of faith is highly commendable. We are familiar with the inspiring stories of the courage of the Christians in persecuted countries. Many of them who followed Jesus to the point of their death or imprisonment are famous—not for their contribution to art, literature or sports like many famous people. But they are known for their integrity and steadfastness of faith. They held on to Jesus and hated their own life. The churches in Rome and Thessalonica and many other places rose to fame through ways that for the world were shameful. Imprisonment, suffering and public execution are shameful by the world's standards. But their faith that made them uphold Christ turns out to be something to be remembered for ever.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Some Thoughts on Christian Identity

Our identity in Christ matters most. We need to know and affirm it. That is what Saint Paul does in Romans 1:7.
The letter was written to the Romans, 'to those in Rome.' We have come to know it as the letter to the Romans. However, it is not meant for all the citizens of Rome.
Paul further qualifies the word ‘Romans’ by the phrase, ‘who are loved by God and called to be saints.’ That is the followers of Christ in Rome.
It is notable that Paul describes the followers of Christ not in terms of what they have done but what God has done in their lives. God has loved them and has called them.
To be loved by God is a privilege. All that we need to do is to accept that love. However, being called elevates us to a new level of existence, 'saints.'
All the citizens of Rome haven’t risen to that level, only a few among them. They are the community of Christ-followers by accepting God's love through Christ and being called to live as saints of God.
You and me also belong to that group if we follow Christ, by accepting God's offer of love through his son manifested on the Cross.

How would like you to be known?

‘Could you introduce yourself briefly, please?” This question was part of the opening ritual of almost every meetings that I have been to. Likewise, an inevitable question in any job interview was, ‘tell us something about yourself?’ Though every member of the interviewing panel had a copy of the candidate's resume, this question was also part of the ritual. The answer to the question was indicative of the candidate’s confidence and self-image besides the communication skills.
Following the pattern of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world that he lived, Paul greets the churches in Rome to whom he wrote the letter with a self-introduction. However, his introduction was unique in many ways. First of all, it was rather unusually long (1:1-6), six verses!
Unique it was in another sense too. He just mentioned his name, ‘Paul’ and his job, ‘Apostle.’ He said that he is an apostle for the Gospel of God. Then the rest is all about Jesus! The part about him was unusually short. He begins with Jesus’ status in his incarnation and his exaltation in resurrection. Then he talks about our relationship to Jesus—he is our Lord. Then he becomes eloquent about what Jesus has done for all of us—he gave grace and apostleship. The purpose of all these being to bring the nations including the church in Rome to obedience.
Paul has a lot to say about himself. He talks about himself in other places as a thorough-bred Jew, well educated, respected in society and the list goes on (Phil 3:5). But he was not boastful but to say that how he considered all these as trash in comparison to Christ. For Paul all that matters is Christ. He has come to a stage in his spiritual maturity where he has nothing to say about himself than who he is in Christ.
Now, could you introduce yourself?

Turn dire circumstances for the glory of God

The way we face the dire circumstances in our life could lead to the wider glory of God. The story of Daniel illustrates that point well. ...