Thursday, July 25, 2013

Through the Bible: Week 45 - Romans, part 4

Becoming What We Worship
Romans 1: 18-32

Verse 18 & 32 form bookends around this section of Paul’s argument: God’s displeasure is revealed – ultimately in death – against our tendency to distort God (ungodliness) and thereby one another who are created in God’s image (unrighteousness).  The theme of this passage is that when we displace God (in false worship) we distort ourselves (those who are made in God’s image) in unrighteous living.  When the center goes everything else goes.  God lets it happen (“God gave them up” vv.24, 26, 28) not merely as judgment but also as mercy. 

 Ungodliness – translates asebia which literally means “no worship.”  Ungodliness is the posture of finding one’s center is something or someone other than God.  This false center distorts one’s own perspective and values so that it inevitably leads to false living.

Unrighteousness – translates adikia which means “no justice.”  This is a person who lives as if their own desires and expectations are the standards for all.  It is a false measure based on a false center. 

Unrighteousness is the result of ungodliness.  Their relation is cause to effect.  And the effect is that we distort the cause – “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  What truth is it that our unjust lives suppress?  We suppress the truth of God’s nature which is revealed in the world around us – especially the world of interpersonal relationships.  We suppress the truth that relationships are whole to the degree that they are grounded in God.  And we suppress the truth about how our relations are restored through the “obedience of faith.”

Paul then demonstrates how these effect one another, by “giving us up” to the false centers we construct and give ourselves to.

                        Ungodliness/Cause                             Unrighteousness/Effect
(1)  Lusts of their hearts (v.24)
(1)  To dishonor their bodies (v.24)
(2)  Dishonorable passions (v.26)
(2)  To exchange natural relations (v.26)
(3)  Debased mind (v. 28)
(3)  Filled all manner of unrighteousness

A lot of these unrighteous acts are in the realm of sexual behavior.  Why is that?  I wonder if this is not analogous to our relationship with God?  When we distort God’s image we invariably distort the divine image in us.  If the dominant motif underlying Paul’s argument is the Garden of Eden, then we must recall that the image of God in the garden is defined in terms of male and female relationships.  The divine image in them is constituted by their complimentary and differentiated relation.  The first distortion after their distrust and distortion of God was to practice the same suspicion against one another.  Paul is making explicit in Romans one what is implicit in Genesis three:  Exchange Gods and you will exchange your genuine humanness.  Does life confirm this analysis? 

No comments:

Post a Comment