Monday, September 8, 2008

Anglican angst and Romans 14

Yesterday the final version of my sermon on Romans 13:8-14 drifted over into Romans 14! I realised that in posing the question for the sermon 'what is the right thing to do?' I needed to acknowledge two kinds of answer that Paul gives to the question. The 'simple' answer is in Romans 13:8-14 where Paul brilliantly recasts the law of apparently many rules as the law of love, the love that does no harm to a neighbour. In many instances in life the question will this bring good or bad, help or harm quickly resolves the answer to the question 'what is the right thing to do?' (And, almost as a PS in the passage, Paul offers a simple answer to certain sensual behaviours which today's world moralises as okay provided no one is harmed. "No!!")

But the pithiness of Romans 13:8-14 should be compared with Romans 14. In the latter Paul does not throw 'love your neighbour as yourself' at the intractable problem of sharp and deep division over eating of certain foods. Rather, he painstakingly, considerately, and sensitively works his way through the conundrum. Here is a complex answer to a complex problem - the complexity of the problem being a lack of clarity as to which side should give way to which.

In the sermon I mentioned the ongoing Anglican Communion crisis as an example of a complex situation. Many already have noted the possibilities of engaging this situation with Romans 14 - I have not done so in any depth before now.

I also noted in the sermon that running through the detail of Paul's argument in Romans 14 is the theme of love. Paul is loving in the way he responds. He urges a loving solution, one in which the principle of doing no harm beats at its heart: the harm to avoid here being damage to another's faith.

There was another point made which God had alerted me to, and that involves telling a story. Till tomorrow!

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