Suffering is hard.  Salvation is grace, right here, right now.

Suffering is hard. Salvation is grace, right here, right now.

During seminary I went through a particularly grueling period. I think it is fair to say – without being overly dramatic – that I suffered. There was trauma, emotional fallout and physical pain. About 18 months into this ordeal, I was privileged to be in class on Romans with Richard Hayes.  When it came time for us to select the passage that we were to write our large, exegetical paper on, I knew just the verses I wanted. Romans 5:1-5. What I really wanted were the words “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope and hope does not disappoint.” When I say I wanted that passage, I mean I wanted to understand what Paul meant when he said that suffering became endurance, endurance character, and character hope. I wanted to know so that I could follow the steps and work my way from suffering to salvation. The apostle Paul is the origin of muscular Christianity. And while muscular Christianity has been seen as a particularly masculine form of Christianity, it is pretty appealing to any of us who have a tendency to be self-driven, hard working, purposeful people. I wanted this text to give me a way to apply my muscle, to work through my suffering and gain salvation. I would lift the heavy weights. I would run the long race. Just tell me what to do, and I would do it. I dove into the passage and translated and read and studied and researched. I produced my 25-page exegesis that concluded – much to my dismay – that Paul was simply using a common Greek rhetorical...
Ditch the Clutter and the Shame and – for Christ’s Sake – Have Someone Over

Ditch the Clutter and the Shame and – for Christ’s Sake – Have Someone Over

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish — hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.  For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  (Paul’s letter to the Romans 1:14-16) When your house is a mess, when you have too much stuff to be organized, when what you have has turned out to be junk, you are hesitant to welcome people into your home. We feel a sense of shame about what we have accumulated, our poor judgment, our misguided desires about what is valuable and our inability to manage what we have.  Marla Cilley, who was in known in the blogosphere as the FlyLady calls it CHAOS. Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. The apostle Paul recognized that every human life is full of clutter –  junk – unneeded, mismanaged, life-choking piles of stuff. Following the tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures, Paul calls this stuff: sin. Paul senses that holding onto the clutter of our sin causes us shame.  Shame is a sense that we are dishonorable, unworthy in some fundamental way. He experiences that both our sins and our shame cut us off from others. Psychologists today are as interested in the workings of the mind and emotion as the Apostle Paul was.  They can catalogue the damaging effect that shame has on relationships.  Within established relationships, shame limits intimacy and initiates power struggles. Shame has dramatic consequences on the ability to establish relationships....