Come down that we may build up

When we lived in a condo, it was a new experience for us. People surrounded us, nearly all of whom want nothing to do with us or anyone else. And, those whom we coaxed a few words from communicated their sincere desire to not have any meaningful relationship with us or others of our community.

We were blessed with a modicum of conversation and even a small level of actual social interaction with others that were also most outcasts; those considered odd, clinically obsessive or hoarders. It was much like high school. How often it is that the strange, the socially inept, the fringe of acceptable society are the very ones open to friendship and willing to hear and even accept the good news of Jesus.

Notice in Romans 15:1-4 what the Spirit inspired Paul to write: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.’”

No, it’s not by chance or unfortunate circumstance that Christians are placed with the socially awkward, society’s outcasts, and the poor for they are a fertile field into which God has called may of us. Our calling from God is to “build them up.” In Romans, we learn much about this plan of God through Christ Jesus.

Karl Barth*, as did St. Peter, wrote about the enigmatical words of Paul. Nevertheless, encouraged by the Holy Spirit, Paul grasped and never released the Gospel that the only begotten Son died to bestow upon all who would receive Him God’s gift, salvation through Christ’s crucifixion. And, as we read through the book of Romans, the Spirit enables us to be transported to that higher plane, one which was revealed to Paul. We learn the way we are to live so that we may deliver God’s grace to others through Jesus.

However, we do not live on the mountain top. We may ascend by the Holy Spirit, but we must come down from our presumed high position that we may “build up” friends, neighbors, our own, and everyone everywhere for this is the pattern Jesus showed and acted upon for us. And what do we gain from this? We obtain that which cannot be purchased, that which kings and men of power long for but can never grasp. We gain peace and the abiding presence of the one true God.

*Karl Barth (1886-1968) was the most important Swiss theologian of the twentieth century, with an influence far beyond Switzerland. He is considered alongside Thomas Aquinas, Jean Calvin, and Friedrich Schleiermacher to be one of the greatest thinkers within the history of the Christian tradition. Barth gave new impulses to Protestant theology during a critical phase, reshaping it fundamentally toward a systematic theology that had to cope with the grim realities of the 20th century. As the principal author of “The Barmen Declaration,” he was the intellectual leader of the German Confessing Church, the Protestant group that resisted the Third Reich. Barth’s writings have been translated into nearly every European language, as well as Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and more. –

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