Today was my last class on Romans – and it was a doozy!
As I reflect back over this semester, I find that once again I have learned tons more in
13 weeks than I ever learned in 13 years of attending church, Sunday School, Bible studies and
I was introduced more closely to Paul of Tarsus. I’m more familiar now with his writing
style, beliefs about Judaism and Jesus as the Messiah, and failings as a human being. I was
reminded that the Book of Romans was a letter to a group of people who were having a specific
conflict in the mid-50s AD – and was not a theological treatise intended to shape the world as we
know it 2,000 years later.
I put on my 1st century sandals and stood in Rome, among a people cruelly subjugated
by Caesar, in a time where movement among classes did not exist and 2-3% of the people held
all the wealth and privilege, thus also health, plenty of food cooked by slaves, opulent homes. It
was a world of patronages, with everything leading back to Caeser.
Only 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection, new believers were still trying to figure it
out – trying to reconcile in their heads what they believed in their hearts. And there were
disagreements in the church (as Dr. Minor would say, “I know you’re shocked!”). Paul was
writing to these believers in far-off Rome, trying to get them to see past their differences for love
of one another.
I’ve listened to the lectures and taken copious notes for 13 weeks, smirking at the real
students who have to read all those books, write papers, take exams, care about grades and
graduation and such. Then today, for me, the doozy arrived. We read Chapter 14, and Paul says
to me, “Do not judge!”
Don’t judge the guy who smokes and has a bad haircut. Don’t judge the driver who isn’t
as efficient behind the wheel as I am. Don’t judge the colleague who hasn’t been on her game.
Don’t judge my brothers and sisters in Christ for … whatever. For as soon as we start patting
ourselves on our backs because we are so non-judgmental, the cycle returns to judgment. “I
don’t judge anymore; wish she wouldn’t judge me!” Bam! I’m judging her again.
Paul knew that the believers in Rome were having a hard time reconciling their
differences. He spent a lot of time on this lengthy letter, explaining some awesome truths.
Maybe they got it back then – maybe they didn’t. But we can certainly try to rectify that today.
If you have a hunger for meeting Paul where he stood, take a class on New Testament at
Memphis Theological Seminary. In the Fall semester 2013, Dr. Minor will teach her Intro class
– a must for every new “good reader of the New Testament.”