In the Book of Romans, there is an amazing sense of connection between what God’s Word says (and why) and what’s going on in 2020 AD: Dissensions, disagreements, racism, judgmental-ism, color-blindness, ethnocentrism, cultural pride, the Christian’s relationship to the State, violence, are all issues addressed head on by Paul in Romans.
Romans makes us feel uncomfortable because it’s about an encounter with a God who loves us and how we struggle receiving His love. We so want to earn it for ourselves and/or feel so entitled to it. It’s also about an encounter with a Holy God. Here, we have even a harder time with holiness because holiness reveals the depth of our alienation with God and with one another. Sin- manifested in our rebellion against our Creator- results in eternal separation and isolation from the love of God and from ourselves. Sin is an intolerant, destructive disease that wreaks havoc upon all humankind.
In Romans, Paul boldly announces that only the good news of Jesus Christ can break the bond of alienation with God and with one another. But before we can reconcile with our enemies, we need to be reconciled with God. The litmus test for Paul, whether we “get it” or not, is how we are going to treat the “others” in our lives: people who look different than we do, people who think differently, people with different cultures and languages. This is why Romans speaks to every generation and every culture, simply because every culture has its own ‘others.’ The sin of of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ is universal.
Underlying the Gospel of liberation from the slavery of sin is the sense that this earth (our cultures, societies, countries) is not home. Here Paul is speaking the language of Jesus who said plainly to Pilate: “my kingdom is not this world” (John 18:36). But this sense of detachment from a “city” that is doomed to destruction doesn’t mean escapism. Paul exhorts us to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). So we have a duty to exchange our unrighteousness of the heart and/or actions for Christ’s righteousness. We exchange an earthly mindset for a heavenly one (Roman 12 as a whole is key). Paul elsewhere offers a great commentary about this “mindset” we need to have (Colossians 3:1-4):
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
He continues on the say pretty much what he will say in Romans as whole. In fact, if you want the SparkNotes version of Romans, read Colossians 3:1-17.
So we rally together during this time of great uncertainty. We come together with our diverse cultures (and opinions :). In harmony (=”mindset” ), together with one voice, we will glorify God (Romans 15:5-6) and proclaim the healing power of the Gospel to ourselves and to those around us.