Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pauline Capital Christianity

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. (Romans 12: 9-16)

It's kinda weird. I'm writing this blog post as Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the United States Congress on Israel's relationship with the United States and Palestine. He seemingly has a much different take on how to achieve peace in the Middle East than I do. Here's what I think St. Paul had to say about pluralism, politics, and Christian living.

St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome during the last years of his missionary work. Paul expresses his desire to travel all the way to Spain in The Letter to the Romans, Chapter 15. We know that he had proclaimed the Christian gospel elsewhere throughout the Eastern portions of the Empire. He sought a home base to work from as he completed his apostolic work and hoped that Rome would be such a place in the West. Consequently, he wrote this epistle as a means to carefully and systematically explain his interpretation of Christ's Gospel, hoping that the Roman Christians would "embrace him and it completely." *(Wallace, 2011, para. D-1).

Marla Selvidge suggests that Paul wrote to Roman Christian converts to urge them to practice an ethic of tolerance. His intention was to unite Jewish and Gentile Christians by insisting that everyone shares equality before God and The Law. (Selvidege, The New Testament: A Timeless Book for All Peoples, 1999) Paul's teachings led to lots of conflict. He upset the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem because of his conviction that Judaism's purity laws and circumcision should not apply to Gentiles. His proclamation of Jesus Christ's gospel led to his imprisonment and execution sometime around 64 CE according to Eusebius of Caesarea. (A Dictionary of the Bible. by W. R. F. Browning. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Apollo Group. 24 May 2011). Peace and harmony are often very complicated issues. Those who promote such values in the public forum without political power are silenced through one means or another.

Romans 12 really sums up Progressive Christianity for me. Genuinely strive to love people. Humbly be hospitable and kind to friends and strangers alike. Persevere and believe. Render aid to the poor and the helpless. Thankfully live into all of these virtues with God's help because of faith in Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Kristin Swenson puts it this way: "Jesus, the incarnation of "I Am," told his disciples that he would have to suffer and die. And they would too. "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." I don't think that he was talking only about physical martyrdom, but rather about acting and be-ing, day in and day out, in the One who Is. This, Jesus says, is life, and the whole world's profit doesn't hold a candle to it." (Swenson, Christian Century, para. #5&6)

Here's the thing though - we are all still working on "being it," aren't we? You listen to politicians and people on the street alike and it's hard to observe them outdoing one another in honor or ardently serving the Lord. My critique probably lines up with Paul's. None of us are worthy of redemption or salvation under God's Law. It is only through Christ's Grace and example, through periods of suffering and growth, that we come to a place of receiving the Holy Spirit's everlasting, reconciling, and fulfilling salvation. I just wish I'd see more of it in the nation's capital as well as around the nation these days.

Oddly enough, it's an American Muslim who speaks from a Washington DC newspaper who points out how we and our nation's leaders can more fully live into Progressive (Interfaith Religious) Christian Ethics. Eboo Patel recently wrote:

"Right now, on over 75 American college campuses, student leaders are recognizing that religion in public life is a critical issue of the 21st century, and are stepping up to the challenge. Students are organizing social action campaigns, bringing together thousands who believe that though they come from diverse faiths and traditions, they can make the world better together. ... they are publicly modeling the possibility of bridging the faith divide, proving there is a different way to relate to each other, based on cooperation rather than conflict." (Patel, May 9, 2011, para. 10&11)

College students are more capable of abiding with one another than Peter and Paul? Young Muslims, Jews, and Christians care for one another more than their parents and politicians. Is that true. Is it true that students still are more capable of practicing what they preach than their pastors, priests, rabbis, and imams? We begin building bridges with one another when we go out of our way to be, work, eat, pray, play, and grow with one another.

Blessings Along The Way,

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