I’ve just begun reading Romans again. I made it to sentence 2. (The first sentence of the Apostle consumes our first 7 verses – and I would recommend spending time thinking on the wonderful truths he proclaims in his greeting to the Roman Church). Verse 8 says:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (Rom 1:8 ESV)
I love reading how thankful and grateful Paul is in his letters. It has challenged me to be more expressive of my gratitude. For instance, I’ve recently begun a new job where I am uncertain of the spiritual journeys of my co-employees. I can guess and surmise from conversations and observations, but I remain uncertain. I do know for certain that I want to be a light to these new friends I have. They already know that I was a pastor and that I am moving my family to Cambodia, (although they still can’t grasp why), so they are a bit leery that I may grow a second head or something. One of the methods of showing Christ’s love to them, I’ve decided, is to verbally express gratitude for anything that is shared or done that benefits me in my learning curve on the job. It is amazing how quickly walls are coming down and levels of friendship are going up. Unexpressed gratitude is an opportunity wasted. Let people know that you are a thankful person.
This last half of the verse really caught my eye this a.m. Now, I love that I live in a world where I can check the weather in Phnom Penh at this very moment, and at the same time, read a newspaper from Jerusalem, all the while listening to a preacher in Ireland, while I read excerpts from the late John Stott‘s works.
The Church is in a unique time of history where the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how it has impacted us, can exponentially spread across the globe. Yet there remains over 6000 unreached people groups and many millions of people dying without exposure to Jesus Christ in their life.
Was Paul exaggerating? Did the Church in Rome really have such a vital faith that it was being proclaimed in “all the world”? Well, first, I don’t think he was lying or exaggerating. So, what was he trying to communicate? I think that I have come down to the understanding that the Roman Church had such a living, vibrant faith, that in that time of history where Rome was expanding and delving into “unknown” areas of the world, that the news of Jesus Christ was spreading as well. I am certain that probably not every single citizen of the world knew about the Roman Church at the time of Paul’s writing, but overall the influence of the Church was felt globally.
And without the use of the internet.
This challenged me, and I hope you as well, to think about the influence of my local assembly. If my church was to be taken out of its community immediately, would there be an empty void? Would the neighbors wonder who would be caring for their spiritual journey, their practical concerns, and the children of their community? Would efforts to be Christ in the county not be as effective if my church were to disappear? We have so many resources at our disposal. We have so many opportunities to be Christ to those around us. We only need to walk across the street, call up our neighbor, invite them for dinner, and just be Christ to them. I believe that if every attendee of my church did this, our faith, (not something focused on us, but the fact that Christ lives through us), would be proclaimed in all the world.
So I think the focuses of this one sentence really demand the individual’s attention:
- Be grateful to others
- Be Christ to others
Chance to Interact: What thoughts do you have on this second sentence in Romans 1? How can the Church make its faith known around the world? If gratefulness is a sign of a heart changed by Christ’s love, why do we struggle so much to express our gratitude? How can we correct that?