Romans 15

Bible opened to Romans 15 with Equal Exchange Panama Extra Dark Chocolate on a snowman plate and glass of milk

Today’s Passage: Romans 15

Paul’s got a vision for the church. What does he want to see? He wants to see people following Christ’s sacrificial example, looking out for other people’s benefit instead of selfishly pursuing their own pleasure. He wants to see people accepting each other. He wants to see the church on the same page, united by Jesus Christ and glorifying God with one voice. I expect that verses 5-6 were particularly the inspiration for the Supertones song “One Voice.” If you have it, dust off your copy of Chase the Sun and spin that track right now. It’s still good after 17 years, isn’t it?

The very first verse jumped out at me: “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” See that italicized word “just?” That’s not present in the original text. Paul is literally telling us to not please ourselves. This is counterintuitive–our gut reaction is to say, “If we’re loving our neighbor as ourselves, shouldn’t we love ourselves?” or to add a “just” in there and say it’s implied. And I get it: we shouldn’t embrace self-flagellation and pursue a course of making ourselves sad and hurt for the Kingdom of God. It’s natural to be wary of a message that apparently encourages spiritual masochism.

I looked up the Greek word “αρεσκειν” (“to please”) in  Strong’s Concordance, and the definition sheds some light on what Paul means. Strong’s says it’s got connotations of “willing service rendered to others,” and from that I conclude that we shouldn’t be self-serving in our actions or focused on the goal of our own pleasure. God is good, and we ought to trust him to give us good things. Like David says in the Psalms, “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). Sometimes God uses other people to deliver joy to us–and sometimes God uses us to deliver joy to other people. Paul is calling his readers to step up on their end of that reciprocity.

Going back to the bigger picture of unity, though, I sometimes feel alienated or disconnected at church. These days I’m wondering how to foster better connections at church and be more closely united in purpose, like Paul’s talking about in this chapter. It’s an ongoing thing.

Today’s chocolate is the last of the Panama extra dark chocolate from Equal Exchange. I got some new chocolate at the grocery store on Sunday, and tomorrow I will unveil my latest fair-trade cacao adventure. Get hype, fam.

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