I know the Bible’s not all about me. It’s about God. And especially it’s about what God has promised, has brought and is bringing to fulfilment in Christ. And so it’s been deeply ingrained into my interpretative psyche from my time with the Proc Trust at Cornhill, an apprenticeship with Co-Mission and at theological college with Oak Hill that I mustn’t make myself the hero of the Bible. So I try not to!
But I couldn’t help myself.
My quiet time was in Romans 16:1-16 this morning. Initially, it didn’t look promising. I know a commendable woman called Phoebe, perhaps I could do something with that (1&2)! But I’ve never yet been imprisoned for my faith (7). There are lots of people at church who occupy a special place in my heart (5, 8). That’s a similar thing. And I have a son called Rufus. But his mother has never been like a mother to me (13). That’s just a little too oedipal for comfort. So what was I meant to do with this?
And then it came to me. What would Paul ever write about me? Would I even make the list? Would he find commendable aspects of my Christian faith if he looked hard enough? I know I’m accepted by God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. And that’s never going to change. I don’t labout under the misapprehension that I can work my way into God’s good books by being busy in his service. I have. But that’s not my current struggle. I’m strong on justification (weak on sanctification, but that’s another story). And yet, when I’m old and I’m sat on my veranda rocking backwards and forwards in my chair, I’d love to look back on a life well spent. For the gospel. It would be a great use of the life that God has entrusted to me if there were commendable aspects of my faith that he could affirm. And so this morning’s passage led to a moment of helpful self examination. I’ll save the conclusions for a private conversation if that’s alright! Suffice it to say that I’m a work in progress. I’m not what I should be. But I’m not what I was.
But what about you? Would your church leader remember you with fondness (9)? What would he commend you for? Your hard work (6)? Your risky genuine companionship even through thick and thin (4)?
They’re not bad questions, are they? Ask them. Answer them. And then return to the cross for your forgiveness and righteousness!