Eddie Izzard’s parody of Paul’s letters: Never put a sock in a toaster; Never put jam on a magnet; Never throw your Granny in a bag: surely does not detract from the value of the advice in Romans 13: Paul’s lasting legacy for us, written barely 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Paul exhorts Christians to wake up and smell the coffee; the time is now, the day is here, this is the work to be done! He is not just talking about bringing more people into the life of love for others, but also just being a good citizen.
I am reminded of a stirring article from that wonderful but deeply flawed man (and what other sort are there?) Russell Brand.
I don’t mind getting my hands dirty because my hands are dirty already. I don’t mind giving my life to this because I’m only alive because of the compassion and love of others
He even looks a bit like our conventional images of that other outsider-prophet, Jesus of Nazareth.
Paul hovers between emphasising that we have work to do to bring life in greater quality to all our sisters and brothers; and emphasising that it is God’s work, God’s will, God’s purpose for us. The involvement of God in all this is a stumbling block to those who consider themselves atheists; for many Christians, it is the only way of talking about the issues of our behaviour on Earth. Whether we are born with a divinely ordained purpose, or just happen to be fairly intelligent assemblies of protoplasm blessed with some degree of self-awareness, there is no doubt that living according to Romans 13 would be a whole lot better than the alternative (do read it in The Message version!)
Many people who have no desire to talk of God nevertheless adopt Jesus as a role model. Even within the Christian Church, there is a wide variation of beliefs, such that many church members even struggle to make sense of the beliefs of others. We could turn these disagreements into hostility, conflict, and even war; but surely it is better to unite in action and to use the diverse beliefs and gifts that people have to produce the greatest improvement to the world that we can?
Inaction, however, is unacceptable to both Paul and Russell Brand. However flawed our past, and we would have a job to match either Paul or Russell in that, we live in the present and have a future which will depend on how we spend our time, money, and efforts right now. Paul did not say this, but today is the first day in the rest of our lives. That makes it rather special, doesn’t it?!
Mervyn posts a reflection each week. Please join in; he welcomes comments.