“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1 – 2)
Paul has hopes; hopes for himself and hopes for the people that he is writing to – the Christian believers in Rome. He hopes that their faith has justified them – that is, has granted them the forgiveness and redemption of the Divine. And have this justification through their faith, he hopes they have peace; peace within and peace in their community of faith. And he hopes that when the Lord God Jesus Christ returns, that the glory that belongs to the Divine will be shared with all of them, the faithful. But the road to that place of hope is not easy.
“And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Verses 3 – 5)
I am glad, beloved reader, that these verses are simple to understand and therefore simple to write on. My heart is heavy, at this writing, because we (those who live within the United States) are living in tremulous times. The latest round of protests and violence has touched even the “well tucked away on the western coast” city of Eugene, OR that has been home since the last 15 years. To the north of us we have Portland which can be a hotbed of unrest and demonstrations. To the south we have California that has its own political and sociological struggles. But the Willamette Valley where Eugene and other such cities are nestled, it is mostly quiet. But not several nights before this writing. And maybe not for several nights afterwards either. The basis of the protests are for justice for all, and the holding and protecting black lives that have come to be so threatened and endangered.
You know, Paul’s next verses present an interesting contrast to these events.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.” (Verses 6 – 7)
Who are the “ungodly” in this political landscape? Those who have committed heinous crimes against innocent people causing their death? Well, Paul says Christ died for them. Those who have protested and caused damage to others and property and have flouted then law? Well, Paul says Christ died for them. Those who for good or ill have enforced laws that persecute and oppress others? Well, Paul says Christ died for them.
You see the problem, beloved reader. Whoever we cast as the “villain” in this, Paul says Christ died for those people. Now, we know that Christ died for humanity, so we all get the blessing of redemption and atonement. But no one in this scenario is outside of Christ’s grace.
The other piece of this is . . . . . we don’t get to decide or judge who is righteous. That’s the Lord God’s territory and purview. And because Christ died for them, they have access to that grace. Now, as Paul pointed out, you need to believe in the Lord God, and Jesus Christ, and for that matter the Holy Spirit. And confess your sins, and make right with the Divine. The potential is there for everyone, but not everyone will accept it and live it out. But Paul says,
“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Verse 8)
What I am trying to point out and say, beloved reader, is that social justice loses its higher nature when one’s (or a group’s) actions negatively impact another (or another group). And that is why my heart is heavy. And while these verses are still “simple” their implication is very complex.
May you, beloved reader, navigate this landscape we live in with care and compassion. And may the Holy Presence of the Divine lead you! Shalom & Selah!