Paul has laid out what’s not yet put right, How God puts things right For us and for them…
So what do we do?
If the gift or invitation is so unconditional – It is not amoral – God’s righteousness and faithfulness in Torah and Christ, Asks our trusting response – ‘Fruitfulness’, lest we get ‘pruned’.
If the first chapters were cosmic theology, Mythic sources for belonging, believing, and behaving, This next stretch is more mundane – Moral behaviour in response to the message, Including ethical language to negotiate Between different moralities
Paul’s other letters worked inductively, Reacting to specific community issues – This is more deductive, From the scheme of the first 11 chapters.
Chapter 12 Recaps the mythic source of the duties to follow – Offering oneself sacrificially as an act of worship, Non-conforming with this world’s norms, But transformed, to conform with Christ’s model.
What follows in c12 enumerates ministries and character traits, Suitable for members of the ne shared Body of Christ (an idea introduced in 1 Corinthians – and picked up after this by the writer of Ephesians) our corner of the tradition tends to exhort without the source! Paul calls on the authority of scripture to support the advice – Returning at the end of the chapter to the mythic frame: Make room for the vengeance to God – in the Wrath to come – Mercy only in the context of ‘spiritual warfare’.
C13 is famous – or infamous – for endorsing civil authorities – In the context of the mythic frame, (remember God sets up Pharaoh and hardens his heart) We obey the penultimate authorities, Since God elects them to their roles, or from their roles Meanwhile, we obey from conscience and pragmatic human morality, And not just because of ultimate justice in the wrath to come.
C14 advises peaceful coexistence with Christians of different moral norms – as I often recite ‘reasonable and faithful people may differ’ – dietary choices about meat, halal or kosher or not, may vary – observance of special days in a ritual calendar, too – but if we make other Christians ‘stumble’ for these ’adiaphora’ non-essentials, as Lutherans call them, our judgmentalism adds risks for division and harm
The beginning of C15 completes the argument of c14, Adding the appeal to ‘we who are strong’
To find empathy for ‘those who are weak’ Paul’s own robust conscience and trust in God, freeing him to break ‘kasrut’ laws, does not permit him to deride those who keep kosher,
choosing to remain within the Jewish community observant of Torah he claims Christ as his model, who surrendered his ritual purity to mingle with the unclean, who kept company with tax collectors and sinners. I chose to break the reading, and the weak, After the formula of benediction – You can see next week, In the briefer reading of half of c15, and c16, Whether you find the ending of Romans, Substantially different from this week’s community ethics.
That’s my daily 500 word quota – If you have time this Lord’s Day, First day of the week – Re-read, and listen again, To these translations and others: