Scripture: Romans 1:13 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 —hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
Observation: Paul makes it clear he’s been wanting to visit Rome for some time, but has been prevented from doing so (he’s doesn’t explain what he means by “prevented”). Unlike other of Paul’s letters in which he writes to churches he helped to plant, the Roman church was started by others. Paul is anxious to preach the gospel in Rome to see more people come to faith (a “harvest”).
On the other hand, Paul was aware that Rome could be a dangerous place. There had been brutal persecutions of Christians in that city. Christians had been periodically tortured, imprisoned, burned at the stake, crucified like Jesus, or fed to the lions in the Roman arena – among other things. Everyone knew Rome could be a dangerous place for Christians so it’s likely the Christians of Rome were concerned for Paul’s welfare should he visit. But Paul wanted to put those fears to rest. He wrote in v.16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith…”.
Application: Christians in the US are not typically tortured, burned at the stake, or fed to wild animals. Thanks be to God. That said, the Western world is not always kind to Christianity. Christians are often characterized as antiquated, bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, and lots of other unflattering qualities. And, unfortunately, sometimes they are right. Terrible things have been done in the name of Jesus over the centuries.
However, many times we are unfairly stigmatized because we affirm unchanging truths (a strange idea in a post-modern world). We believe there is one true God, creator of heaven and earth – and people. We believe human life is a precious gift of God, not something to be disposed of at our own discretion. If Christians are called to advocate for the powerless, I can think of no greater example than unborn children. Yet to voice such an idea is considered sexist in our modern world.
Christians believe in Sabbath rather than 24/7 commerce and productivity, place our trust in the power of God over human ingenuity, believe in the power of love to overcome violence. Most incredibly, we believe in a Jewish carpenter who died, rose again, then ascended into heaven that we might be claimed as children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. These are perceived as quaint ideas in the eyes of many in our day and age. This is nothing new. But today’s passage reminds me to stay strong in the face of opposition, even danger.
Prayer: Lord, give me grace that I might not be ashamed of the gospel today. Amen.