For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 12 – Living the Christian Life
This vision of unity between Jew and Gentile drove Paul in his evangelistic activity, his theological reflection, and his practical action. Unity between Jew and Gentile was so vital that Paul was willing to travel close to miles out of his way for it. He was willing to stand up and refuse to allow Titus to be circumcised for it Galatians He was willing to rebuke no less than the apostle Peter face-to-face to preserve it Galatians He was willing to endure the hardships of beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and prisons for it 2 Corinthians Unity in Christ broke down all the barrier walls that separated people and inhibited the joy of mutual fellowship.
It included Jews and Greeks, men and women, slave and free Galatians , as well as Scythian and barbarian Colossians Each one cared for the other so that when one suffered all mourned and when one was honored all rejoiced 1 Corinthians ; Romans This fellowship was important from the very beginning of the church. According to Acts 2 the first believers met in the temple daily, not only for prayer and worship, but also for fellowship.
This unified fellowship is directly tied to mission as well. We read in Acts that as believers met in unified fellowship their numbers grew and many were added to their number daily. Unity is vital for mission. Some, if not many, in the early church believed that the only way to hold the church together and achieve this unity was to have complete uniformity of practice in all areas of Christian life for the entire body of diverse early Christians.
If some Christians were circumcised, for example, all had to be circumcised. It is hard for us in our culture to comprehend what a huge decision this was and what far-reaching implications it brought. It achieved unity by allowing for diversity. It maintained unity of purpose by allowing for diversity of practice.
In other words, it achieved the unity of inclusive fellowship by allowing for diverse practices that took into account the ethnic, cultural, and geographical diversity of the early church. Had the early church demanded unity in all practices and policies, it probably would have meant at least two different Christian churches, separate from, if not at odds with, each other.
For Paul this allowance for diversity was not merely a pragmatic decision, however. It was a well-thought-out theological conviction. It had to do both with his ecclesiology and his theology of mission. He sets it forth in 1 Corinthians in the middle of a discussion about food offered to idols which we will view in detail later.
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law though I myself am not under the law so that I might win those under the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. Allowance for diversity does not mean really being under the law, on the one hand, or being lawless toward Christ, on the other. Diversity does not mean that all is relative.
One way to give shape to this interplay between unity and diversity is to look at several case studies within the New Testament where Paul and Peter deal with controversies and threats to unity. How do they come to grips with them? What does this teach us about unity and diversity? Inclusive, egalitarian fellowship was then and is now a fragile thing. Threats raised their ugly heads whenever Christians acted in ways that failed to embrace fully inclusive fellowship in Christ. Whenever they were threatened, globally or locally, Paul was stirred to action.
He could not stand idly by whenever real life fellowship, acceptance, and welcoming of each other gave way to a prejudice that made any Christian, in any way, a second class citizen, and that includes women. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the occasion in Antioch when Peter was eating with Gentiles, but then withdrew when certain people came from James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem.
It was probably a complex situation for many of them. For Paul, however, the issue was clear. In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians he speaks of the various factions that divided the church, and in chapter 11 he gives us a hint as to what this factionalism meant in the lived experience of the community. Again it involved a lack of table fellowship. Each faction ate separately and refused to share their food, so that some had plenty and others were hungry 1 Corinthians That this unity did not mean uniformity of all practices is demonstrated when Paul tackles a question put to him by the Corinthians 1 Corinthians What about eating food offered to idols?
In the first century world meat markets were generally adjacent to pagan temples and portions of most of the meat had been a part of pagan sacrifice. In the first part of chapter 10 Paul makes an important caveat. Christians are never to participate in the idolatry or the sexual immorality of pagan worship 1 Corinthians They could eat it. But if a sensitive host pointed out that they might not want to eat certain food because it had been offered to an idol, out of sensitivity to the host, one should avoid it.
And if eating would be a stumbling block and hurt another person for whom Christ died, the Christian with knowledge, in the position of power, should be willing to give up even legitimate rights for the sake of that more vulnerable person who might be injured.
Surprisingly, Paul never mentions the Council or its decision in this three-chapter discussion, even though 1 Corinthians was definitely written after the Council. The issue is complicated, but is appears that Paul was willing to go against the voted action of the Council. Perhaps he felt that this voted policy was not necessary for all time or for all places or for all situations.
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In this case, for Paul, good sense appears to trump adherence to voted policy. When Peter followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit in Acts 10 and baptized the uncircumcised Cornelius and his household, Peter also had to know that this was hardly within the established practice of the early church at that time. This was before the Jerusalem Council. Therefore it is hardly surprising that Peter received criticism, as we see in Acts Here there is no reference to food offered to idols, but to the fact that some eat only vegetables and some eat meat.
He says that believers should be fully convinced in their own minds Romans Probably some would have been concerned that this was precisely the problem. The Roman house churches needed Paul to tell them what practice was correct.
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They need not have the same practice. But it was vitally important that they have the same welcoming spirit of fellowship and mutual caring. Idolatry, adultery, bigotry, and prejudice are never within that framework. But the framework could include a significant diversity of practice as long as love, mutual respect, and reverence for each other prevailed.
As he says in the middle of this discussion:. Romans If you are searching for a precise phrase e. Then go to either of the book pages and scroll down through the text to see the highlighted phrases.
Catholic life, path to holiness. Alphonsus de Liguori — pdf, text, audio; pdf also here ; or read online here ; or audiobook here: part 1 , part 2 , or here. Humility of Heart Fr. Gaetano M. The Way of Salvation and of Perfection St. Abandonment to Divine Providence Jean-Pierre de Caussade — pdf, text, audio; or audiobook here ; or pdf here. Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence St. Claude de la Colombiere — pdf; or pdf, epub, kindle format here. Canfield — pdf, text, kindle format.
Living The Gospel - Romans
Letter to the Friends of the Cross St. Louis Marie de Montfort — pdf; or read online here ; or audiobook here: part 1 , part 2. The Spiritual Combat Fr. Preparation for Death St. Alphonsus de Liguori — pdf; or audiobook here various parts or here. The Art of Dying Well St. The Book of Confidence Fr.