“For I want very much to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both your’s and mine. I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. Romans 1:11-12, 14 New International Version
In years gone by, too quickly now if you ask me, the days between the opportunities to see Joni went by on wings of lead. I remember when back in the day the Postal Service was considering dropping mail service on Saturday. I took this as a personal affront! How could they even think of doing such a thing? It was already to long to wait for Joni’s letters to get to me.
There was the phone of course, however as some of you may recall long distance phone calls were expensive. My parents in trying to instill in me a sense of responsibility had me pay for all my long distance phone calls. As you might suppose, the phone calls had to be used for special occasions.
At last would come the weekends and I was able to travel to California’s central coast to be with Joni. It took so long to get there, I couldn’t drive fast enough! When Paul tells those in Rome he wants very much to see them, I understand. I remember watching my daughters grow, not thinking of the day they would be gone, then seeing them become amazing young women leaving on their own adventures of life. Now how much I long to see them when they are so far away! Somehow the thought didn’t enter my mind when they were little, or in grade school, not even in high school had reality set in, that one day they would both be gone.
The biggest reality check of all was one I ran into like a brick wall. My little girls had grown up and were gone! The eldest took off for Europe, the youngest for Texas. That was when I truly realized no matter how much I wanted to see them, I would have to wait until it could happen!
Paul also addresses the issue, he longs to see the believers in Rome. Yet, he writes every time he plans to come there is some form of “barrier” keeping him from them. However, Paul doesn’t give up hope that he will soon be with them.
Saul, once a top member of the Sanhedrin and the scourge of Christians, hunted the new believers in order to return them to the Jewish faith. His zeal was unmatched by any other until a day Paul would never forget, a day that completely reshaped the story of Christianity and caused it to become a day no Christian has forgotten either! On the road to Damascus Saul met Jesus!
Meeting Jesus is all it takes to transform a life. On the road that day Saul became Paul. In that moment the history of Christianity was altered in ways which would be world changing. Saul the highly educated, fanatical Pharisee becomes Paul the champion of Christianity to the gentiles. He also becomes a champion of Grace and one of its greatest voices!
For some the day of their conversion is burned into their soul. Others find it is a gradual recognition. They discover there is Someone far greater running things, Someone who all the while is keeping an eye on His children.
Paul leads the church of Rome to understand that in the Kingdom of God there is no segregation of any kind. Choosing up sides is strictly a human resource used to control who is in and who is out. This especially points out why God uses the foolish for there are times when pride cuts off the ability to learn, hampers the desire to remain teachable.
When Jesus still walked the paths of Palestine, the disciples came to Him complaining that there were others teaching the Gospel. In their indignation the disciples wanted to put them in their place! Jesus said, “If they are not against us then they are for us.” (Luke 9:49, 50; Mark 9:38-41)
Paul wants all followers of Jesus to know and understand it will require everyone to be involved in taking the gospel to the whole world. If they are not against us they are for us. We do not have time to be involved in petty arguments. What is needed now is the desire to have God use you, and the talents He has given to you.
It really is as simple as asking. Whether you recognize how He is using you isn’t even an issue. It might be at the very moment when you feel your most foolish. Allow yourself to be obligated to the wise and the foolish, the barbarian and the greek. We can’t know everything, and there are a lot of highly intelligent people out there!
There are times when it is quite easy to feel foolish, to look around you and see the only one marching in your direction is you! It’s not easy being different, being foolish. I haven’t signed up for foolish classes, but if God uses both the wise and the foolish it seems to me I find myself in the foolish section much more than I like.
There is a line of dialogue in the movie Harvey (starring James Stewart), that puts it rather nicely. The comment is this, “I was told there were two ways to get on in this life. One was to be so very clever, the other to be oh so very pleasant. I,” the actor says, “have chosen to be oh so very pleasant!” I share this little tidbit revealing perhaps being thought of as the foolish one isn’t all that bad sometimes!
I joined an online group discussing theology; I wasn’t too sure if I was going to survive the first 24 hours. Talk about feeling intimated, I’m not sure if that is even a strong enough word to describe how I felt. Then after surviving some bombing runs, God led me to some who were in the same type of boat I was paddling around in, only their boats were much larger. They complimented my writing, applauded my insights, even remarked my writing represented someone with a formal education.
It is an amazingly challenging group, from Eastern thoughts to Calvinist thinkers, from Evangelical to Episcopal. It includes those who absolutely believe there is a literal hell that will burn forever, and those who say there is no way God could create someone so bad they would have to be destroyed.
Once again my learning curve has gone ballistic, through the roof, as God teaches me to listen, to respond gently, and honor others with respect. I am becoming ever more familiar with seeking common ground, even being willing to be seen as foolish which has happened already on a couple of occasions.
I’m not so sure if I am there to teach as much as God has me there to learn. I see this as a part of the plan He has, not only for me, but for any who seek to be used by God for God’s purposes, in God’s timing, through God’s Grace in Process.
These are the wise sayings of Solomon,
David’s son, Israel’s king—
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women. Proverbs 1:1-6 The Message