At first glance this passage gives us a sense of being in the middle of a “chicken and egg” kind of discussion. What came first, Abraham’s ability to do acts of justice or God’s gift of grace to Abraham in order for him to do acts of justice? The message Paul wanted to convey to the Roman church was that everyone is worthy of God’s grace. There is no stranger in the eyes of God. God knows everyone because he created everyone. God welcomes everyone into his reign.
Paul gave the people in the church of Rome a “reality check.” The people of Israel had taken the identity of being God’s children as an exclusive, self-deserving characteristic. God had called them; God separated them; God elected them to be a people of change, a loving people. Instead of being an instrument of peace, love, compassion, and inclusion, the people of Israel had become a support/social/communal group who clustered themselves instead of reaching out to the “strangers.”
Christians in the first century, throughout its history, and even today, in the 21st century, behave as keepers of faith instead of practicing and embodying the gift of grace. God wants us to reach out, welcome, listen, respect, and celebrate the “stranger.” We are no longer strangers, not because we “tolerate” our differences, but because in Christ Jesus there is no need to tolerate for there is no difference. We are all the same, children of the Most High.
As we continue this season of Lent, let us consider who we are in Christ Jesus. He came for many, not for a few, for all, not for some. We are not called to judge, or even have the ability to decide who is worthy of God’s grace. Only God, in his sovereign mercy, saw fit to give all the Divine gift of grace. May this Lenten season be one where we can put our preconditions, our presumptions, and all that separate us from “other” aside. Let us remember that God, a perfect being, emptied himself of all his glory, dwelled among us, died for the sins of the world, was resurrected for salvation, and will come again.
Let us pray: God, dull the envy in us which criticizes and complains life into a thousand ugly bits. Keep us honest and tender enough to be healed of our hypocrisies. Match our appetite for privilege with the stomach for commitment. Teach us the great cost of paying attention that, naked to the dazzle of your back as you pass, we may know we are always on holy ground. Breathe into us the restlessness and courage to make something new, something saving, and something true that we may understand what it is to rejoice.*
Ruth Aimee Beloni-Rosario *Taken from Guerrillas of Grace p.107
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