It’s July, so I was thinking today about skiing. I’m not sure skiing should be on my mind on a warm day in the middle of summer, but my reading of Romans 1 brought me to it.
I was thinking about how my kids learned to ski after we moved to Colorado. We didn’t put them in lessons. We just had them ski down to the lift, and we held our breath. It probably wasn’t the best strategy, but it seemed to work.
What I remember about those early hours of skiing was all of the falling down. It was wise for me to remain behind my kids during their first fledgling moments on skis – so that if one of them fell down and lost skis and poles, I could come along and help. It’s not necessarily easy to get everything put back together when your loose skis keep wanting to slide away from you down the mountain.
But occasionally, I found myself below the kids, and one of them would take a spill above me. And I would have to call up instructions to them – pointing out where their lost skis and poles had fallen and how best to position themselves to get their skis back on.
And I would call out instructions, and they would listen to me. And they wouldn’t be that great at doing everything I told them to do, but they would try. They were willing, and that was enough. They would listen to me because I was trying to help them. And I would stand there as long as needed until they were ready to go again. I might even trudge back up the hill to help them do what they couldn’t do themselves. (I might do that … maybe …)
Paul wrote his letter to what likely was a mixed church in Rome, made up of both Gentile and Jewish Christians. Paul was writing probably in the late 50s, just as he was preparing for an ill-fated trip to Jerusalem. Of course, Paul was prepared for that eventuality. It was always a goal of his to go to Rome and visit the church there, and then to leave to spread the gospel to Spain.
And Paul jumped right into his message in the first few lines of his letter to the Roman church. In describing himself, he said he was a “servant” and “apostle” of Christ who was “set apart” for the gospel. Paul knew who he was and what he was called to do.
And Paul described the gospel as something that was promised to the Jewish nation in its Scriptures and was centered around the Son of God who took on flesh and rose from the dead. And Paul said he and the other apostles had received their mission through Christ – and that mission was “to bring about the obedience of faith” among all the nations.
So at the very start of Paul’s letter – a very significant letter – Paul said his mission was to bring as many Gentiles as possible into the “obedience of faith.” I don’t know what you think about when the concept of “obedience” comes to mind, but I think about listening to my superiors and doing what they tell me to do.
As Americans in our Enlightened society, we don’t care very much for the idea of obedience – not really. We don’t like to think about ourselves as being subservient to anyone. And I think about church life, calling a wayward Christian back to obedience to the commands of Christ. You can imagine how well that usually goes over.
But Paul was calling people to the obedience of faith. The two concepts – obedience and faith – are linked together. We obey because we believe. It’s like one of my kids listening to my instructions from down the hill. They obey my words because they believe I’m helping them. They obey as they are being rescued from their predicament – rescued by a person they trust.
And we obey our Savior.
Paul began and ended his letter to the Romans with this same idea. That’s one reason we know this is very important. In Romans 1:5, Paul wrote he was working “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” At the end of the book, Romans 16:26, he wrote the command of God was “to bring about the obedience of faith.”
I don’t know about you, but every now and then I need to consider my own life, whether I am obedient to God in my faith. And if not, why not?