We cannot do this alone, but we know by faith that God is with us and that we will always have the support of his Holy Spirit in our continued efforts to develop the habits of righteousness in the light of the gospel.
This passage could be the Christian motto. It is a courageous statement rooted in a confident faith. What is there to be ashamed of in the gospel? Paul speaks for every believing Christian when he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” This passage was written by Paul in response to the intellectual and religious attacks that were being thrown at him by both Gentiles and Jews who were critical of Paul’s proclamations concerning the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. The kinds of attacks that Paul was responding to in his letter to the Romans are still with us today. We are challenged by Paul, and by the Holy Spirit, to ask ourselves today, if we have the conviction to respond to those challenges, those critiques, with the same faith and confidence in the gospel that Paul expresses here.
Paul’s response to the criticisms of the gospel that are being hurled at him by both Jews and Greeks is a courageous statement of his faith in Jesus Christ. He is not arguing with them here. Rather he is preaching confidently to them out of his faith and out of his love for them. He is telling his listeners, “Jews first, and then Greek,” that the righteousness of God is revealed to all, “from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous by faith will live.'” (verse 17) Come, then, to this gospel, this good news, and live!
After all, what should we be ashamed of in the gospel? Should we be ashamed of God? Should we be ashamed of the fact that God so loved the world that he would send his only begotten Son into it to reveal that love to us in the flesh? Should we be ashamed of our call to live the gospel in service to the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the ill, or the imprisoned? Should we be ashamed of Jesus’ final commandment to us to “love one another as he has loved us? Should we be ashamed of its challenge to love God with our whole hearts, our whole minds, our whole souls, and our whole strength? Or to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Or of his challenge to us to no longer hate our enemies, but to love them and to pray for those who persecute us? Ought we be ashamed of being forgiven and called back to our original dignity? Ought we be ashamed that, because of God’s love for us, we have been saved from the slavery of sin and death? Of course not. But, what we can rightfully be ashamed of is our failures to always live up to the gospel challenge to love all others as he loved us.
Today’s sceptic might argue that the world isn’t any better today for having Christianity in it; that there is still too much pain and misery, too much corruption and horror in the world. The great G.K. Chesterton once responded to such a remark saying, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” We all know that living the Christ life is not easy. But every act of gospel kindness, or forgiveness, or mercy, or compassion, no matter how small, is an act of faith and is full of the power of Christ’s saving presence in the world. Our faith in the gospel is a gift of the Holy Spirit and fills us with the desire to live it out in our daily lives. We cannot do this alone, but we know by faith that God is with us and that we will always have the support of his Holy Spirit in our continued efforts to develop the habits of righteousness in the light of the gospel. With God on our side, who [or what] can be against us?
Lord, send us your Holy Spirit to guide us, to strengthen us, and to encourage us in our daily efforts to live gospel lives. We believe in your saving love and wish to share it generously with the world today. Make of us your instruments of peace, love, compassion and forgiveness. Give us the graces we need to rise up on to our feet and to begin walking in your ways this day and all those yet to come. We ask this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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