To be honest, I am not sure what direction to take this study for several reasons. For one, Romans is very intense and designed to build us up in Christ. That is not a bad thing as the words Paul brings us, build a solid basis for who we are in Christ. As you can see below, my journey into verse one has taken at least a page unto itself. Considering that it took me six months to complete a study on the book of Micah, I am not sure how long this will take. Additionally, I have a personal reason to study Romans, as a group I sit with will soon be going through the book of Romans and I prefer to be prepared for discussions.
With that, let’s dive in and see where this will take us.
Romans 1:1 NLT This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.’
Pay attention to the phrase Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.
For me, as a young man, slavery had a negative connotation, and I think that much of that came from the nightly news, as every broadcast in the ’60s and ’70s was filled with people of color marching for the right to treated like human beings. Much like the assassination of President John Kennedy, we watched Dr. Martin Luther King get assassinated, while white Southern police brutally beat the blacks who marched in protest.
In my home, it meant I had no right to have any say over my own life, and, it meant brutal, unjust treatment. Raised in a “Christian” home, I was taught that if I defended myself from some bully at school, and my mother found out about it, I would be handed over to dad for an additional beating after he would come home from work. Another aspect of my “Christian” upbringing, was being told, repeatedly, that the Bible teaches us to turn the other cheek; by my mom’s standards that meant that I was supposed to allow some school bully to keep punching me until I was spinning like a top or unconscious.
So, all this damage I am spewing is associated with the notion of slavery.
Slavery is the Greek word doúlos and means one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other. WSD
The idea of being a slave, especially on purpose, repulsed me for years. What changed me because I am no longer taken back by the idea of being a slave to Christ, but long for it?
It has been a couple of things.
Having gone through what I call my “dark night of the soul,” I began to study my Bible intentionally – a journey that has been going on for over eleven years. My work schedule, at the time, was such that I had to be at work at seven in the morning and I had to drive through some wretched drive-time traffic to get there. Leaving an hour earlier, I was now within proximity of work, I bypassed the mad rush of traffic, and I could quietly eat my breakfast and read my Bible. Reading, seemed pointless at first as I felt dead inside, and the words were the same lifeless words I had heard before. I can remember crying out to God and saying if this dead feeling does not change then I cannot and will not keep doing this. I need you to make the words come alive, and they did.
There was another facet of my understanding that had to change. Aware that religion had taught me cute stories – narratives that enforced how my parents and church wanted me to see Jesus and God; therefore, a component of my reading and writing was an intentional and purposeful hunt to find the nature and character of God. With the understanding that Jesus is God, I began to study the gospels where the actions and words of Jesus were laid out before me. If my perception was correct, and Jesus was God, then I was seeing God in action. I could not worry about the “law” with all its regulations; I merely observed the life of Jesus. A significant example of God’s character was displayed when the temple rulers brought a woman caught in adultery. How odd, since adultery always requires two participants and it is typically the man who makes the moves on the woman, and yet, there was no man presented to Jesus that day. While the elders were looking for Jesus to condemn her, He most likely rebuked them as He wrote in the dirt. But then the most amazing thing happened as he showed the woman mercy.