If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
23 October. Romans chapters 11-13
Chapter 11 is a rather convoluted argument (to Western readers) about God’s favour and his anger towards both Jews and Gentiles according to their attitudes, and how one groups seems to be played off against the other. But the image he uses of a cultivated olive tree – nourished from its ancient roots and able to sustain both natural and grafted branches – is a helpful one. There is always a danger in religious practice of considering one’s own beliefs (in this metaphor, a single olive) or one’s own church grouping (the branch) as being all that matters. In fact what matters most is staying connected to the whole tree (all those who believe), and through it to the roots (God’s sustaining love) without which the whole tree would die.
Chapter 12 is written in plainer language. It’s also a favourite of mine as it is the reading that my wife and I chose to have read at our wedding. Paul speaks here of the importance of love – not as a romantic feeling, but as treating everyone as equals, even as betters. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. … Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (12:9, 10, 14) is intended as guidance for church congregations, but applies equally to making a happy marriage. Likewise the opening verse, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (12:1) is also a good starting point for sexual intimacy, where our bodies are not for our own pleasure, but for building up the relationship. This reflection on love is summed up in the next, with “love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (13:10).