Gez Perry
Gez Perry


We sometimes wonder about our calling or purpose in life, what are we here for, what do we want out of life? In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul writes about his own purpose and calling right at the start, he sees himself as a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God (1:1). He hasn't decided this on his own, he's been given a clear goal that will impact the whole world. He writes that through Jesus he received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith (1:5). This must be important because we find the same thing right at the very end of his letter, where he states that the message he proclaims about Jesus Christ is so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith (16:26).

Paul's letter is challenging to read, not only because it's so long but also because the things he writes about are complicated and perhaps a bit convoluted. Like climbing a mountain or running a marathon, there's a definite sense of achievement to be gained just from reading it from start to finish. As the first letter to be found in the Bible and by virtue of its length, we can feel that what we're reading is important but we need help to make sense of it, just as we need help to make sense of the complexities of life.

Clues come from words and phrases that are repeated throughout the letter and are a helpful place to start figuring out what this letter is all about. We ourselves are included among the Gentiles who are called to the obedience that comes from faith. Perhaps we need to begin by taking that to heart? Obedience might seem like a strange word, one that is more often used in reference to training animals or young children. Who or what are we meant to obey? Surely we are free to do as we please? When we start to think about it, obedience can sometimes come from fear or from a desire to gain some kind of reward. Or perhaps obedience is instinctive or involuntary, we obey our human desires without too much thought or self-control.

If we are called to the obedience that comes from faith, this would suggest a connection between what we do and what we believe. Faith is a word that Paul uses at least 40 times in this letter, which is more than any other book in the Bible. I wonder if we are aware of this connection? How much of what we do is because of what we believe and is that different from what we say we believe? The influence of other people and the values of the world around us are very strong. The way we live probably conforms more to the way we observe people around us living their lives than to a set of core beliefs or rules. Paul is very clear with his instructions, do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds (12:2) 

We are all in the same boat, that's one thing that Paul underlines repeatedly in this letter, there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles even though there might appear to be. Let me encourage us all to see what we can discover from reading Romans and from thinking about the lives we lead. Can we identify with what Paul is writing about? Do we observe obedience that comes from faith in our lives? Are we aware of this calling, which is also a calling to belong to Jesus Christ (1:6) and to be God's holy people (1:7)? This letter has a reputation for changing lives and perhaps our lives could do with some change. So, let's begin this journey in the hope that our purpose will become clearer as we find out more about our calling and pursue obedience that comes from faith.