TO ROME - a road less traveled

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Every Sunday afternoon at Rome, at 3.00 pm, the International Christian Fellowshp (ICF) begins its service in English, one of the few Charismatic evangelical service in that City. The ICF is held at the premises of St Paul's Within the Walls, built in 1873. Apostle Paul would have really enjoyed the worship and the strong Gospel based teaching. But I dare say that Paul would be rather surprised that 2000 years from his last visit there that the Christian Church would argue from his letters to the Romans to condemned Gays.

Paul wrote the book of Romans without first visiting Rome. He wrote Romans whlist in Greece around A.D. 55. He wrote the letter to announce his impending visit. He only reached Rome in AD 61 as a prisonner of the emperor. Hence Paul's knowledge of Rome was limited to the existance of a very large and well established Jewish community established in 161 BCE. Perhaps, the Jewish community in Rome was then the largest in the gentile world.

Paul's letter to the Romans was written to the Jewish community in Rome. After spending many years establishing churches in Asia Minor, he wanted as the final mark of his ministry to preach the gospel to the Jews in Rome (Rom 1:15). Despite being severely criticised over the last 20 years for preaching that Christians are no longer bound by Jewish law, Paul unrepentendly declared that he would not back down from preaching the gospel of Christ that Christ is alone is sufficient - the so called Gospel of Grace in modern day terminology that only by Grace and not by law that we are saved and that Christians need not abide by the Jewish law (contrary to the strong move by the Christian Right today to do so). We partake of His righteousness by faith through Grace no longer by works for which the Jewish law requires (Roms 1:17).

Paul's gave a strong warning of those who oppose the truth concerning the gospel of grace, that Christians are not required to follow the Jewish law. He declared to the Jews in Rome who is so adamant about the need to follow the commandments to be saved and to abide in it even after you believe in Jesus, that they are in reality totally ungodly and unrighteous despite them piously following these commandments and would suffer the wrath of God for their attempts to surpress this truth about grace. Why, because the truth of God's grace has been shown to them. (Roms 1:19). Since the beginning of time, God have shown himself to the Jewish nation as a God of mercy and grace (Roms 1:20) God delievered them out of the hands of Pharoah not because they deserved it, it is by grace, totally unmerited. In Roms 1:21, instead of being thankful, they became foolish they turned the blessings of God, the very gold and precious metal out of Egypt that God blessed them and mold it into an idol of a golden calf to worship instead of God. Even when God gave them the law and declared curses if they failed to obey, it did not changed them. The Isralelites took up the worship of Baal involving mass sexual orgies. Their sexual rampage and passion for the sexual orgies were so widespead in their worship of idols that the mass sexual orgies between opposite sexes were not sufficient that they even had sex with the same sex which is totally unnatural for straight people of whom the majority of Israel was and still is until today. (Roms 1:24-28). Paul was reminding the Jews what their ancestors did despite having the law, and despite claiming to be pious and holy to have a passion not to sin and follow strictly the torah. They are no different and were still the same like their forefathers " ... filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;" ( Roms 1:29-32). In essence, in the defence of the true Gospel and Christian walk which is by Grace against the demands of the observance of the law by the Jews, Paul launched one of the most heated judgement against the artificial religion of the Jews, claiming to follow the law yet have never changed since the ancient of days.

In Roms 1:32, Paul reminded the Jews that by Law they deserved death, so therefore what right have they to judge Paul, to say that somehow Grace leads to no constraints and leads to sin !! But God will judge according to the truth and that they will not escape the judgement of God. In Roms 2:4, Paul reminds those who are so proud of following the law that it is the grace of God, the goodness of God, not giving us what we deserved even when we sin, that causes us to have a change of heart. But the Jews are so religious and hardened in their self righteousness, that they did not recognized this and so will receive wrath that they justifiably derserved under the law (Rom 2:6). Therefore you come under the curse of the law when you do not embrace grace. You make Grace cheap when you embrace the need to abide by the law even though Christ came to fulfill it. You make the cross 'cheap'. The term "Cheap Grace" was invented during WW2 which was an absurdity because Grace is never cheap, it took the life of Jesus the son of God. Rather, the institutionlized Christian church in those days, just like in Rome today, do not know grace, but on the contrary are law conscious.

All have sinned. There is no partiallity in judegment whether Jews and non Jews. In Roms 12:2, whether under the law or not under the law, we have all sinned. For the Jews, they will received judgement of sin under the law. For the gentiles, even though they do not have the law, they have a conscience which will convict them of their sin. Paul declared in Roms 2:17 to 22), how can we ever boast of the law. Because the law condemns us. How can the religious Teachers of the law boast and teach people of the law as though they have never broken the law?

In Rom 2:25-3:1, Paul is mocking the Jews saying that "so what, if you are a jew and is circumsized as a mark of being a jew?" if you do not keep every facets of the law and does not break any of them. Even a gentile although is not Jew, can be called a child of God i.e. a jew if he fulfills the requirements of the law. So what's the great deal of being a Jew? Paul reminded them, it is an honour to be a Jew, not because of law keeping, but because they are the keepers of the message of Salavation. (Roms 3:3) Just because some of them did not believe, that does change the fact that God is faithful to His message. Paul even forseen that some will slander his meesage of Grace (Roms 3:8), saying that the message of Grace gives license to sin. Paul called this slandering against God deserving of judegement.

So what? Is Jews who have the law better than non-Jews, no way, for all have sinned (Roms 3:9). There is no one righteous, i.e. following the law does not make you any more righteous in the sight of God (Rom 3:10). One may claim to abide by the law, but that does not equate to having a correct passion of the truth to seek God ! (Roms 3:11,12), for by following the law, you cannot be right before God (Roms 3:20). For now we obtain true righteousness not from the law, but through Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is by Grace and not by Law which we are righteous before God. (Roms 3:24). It is by Jesus blood, by our faith in God's grace, that our sins are forgiven and passed over as if totally forgotten. (Rom 3:25). So who can boast now? By Grace nobody can boast because it is not of ourselves. It is all of Christ. Our faith is to believe on the grace of God.

On a Sunday afternoon at ICF in Rome, the Spirit of God could not get out of the four walls of the Church. We have replaced Christianity by religion. The adherence to Law so abhored by Paul rather than walking in the Grace of God, has taken over the institutionalized Church. Without Grace, as paul has preached, we return to our self righteousness always boasting of the law. We have put God in a box and our religion we practized instead. We have the audacity to assign passages in the bible that condemns our legalism and self righteousness as somehow a passage against Gays. We could not see pass our self righteousness, we point the finger of condemnation. We judged just as the Jewish community judged Paul and his gospel message when they have no right to judge.

Although Paul yearned to go to Rome, he did not do so willingly despite having ample opportunities. Because He would be travelling a road less traveled, a road which does not compromise on the truth of the Gospel, because it is the only way to bring into reality the power of the cross of calvary into our lives when we admit we need God. Are we as a Gay Christian community, willing to take the road less traveled where we will not find acceptance by the rest of the church, where we will burn brigdges by our firm stand, where we no longer 'de-gay' our christianity, where we face the oppostion without backing down and calling the homophorbia and the sin of prejudice committed by the Christian Churches as they are without watering down the message.

We are called to travel the road less traveled, not a popularity contest, but because we are a debtor, we owe it to Jesus not to be ashamed to preach the Gospel as it is that God loves Gay people and created them wonderfully as Gays.

Here I am, wholly available
As for me, I will serve the Lord
The fields are white unto harvest

But O, the lab'rers are so few
So Lord I give myself to help the reaping,
To gather precious souls to You

The time is right in the nation
For works of power and authority;
God's looking for a people who are willing,
To be counted in His glorious victory

As salt are we ready to savour,
In darkness are we ready to be light,
God's seeking out a very special people,
To manifest His truth and His might

Here I am, wholly available
As for me, I will serve the Lord
The fields are white unto harvest



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