Romans 14-16

As I begin today’s reading I am reminded that in the last reading we were talking about loving your neighbor.    This passage makes more sense when we look at it through the lens of love.
Read Romans 14-16 here.
Let’s take a look at today’s reading with that thought in mind:
Chapter 14:   Maybe it’s what we eat or drink, or what day we think is the “Sabbath”, it could be any number of things…we always seem to find the differences between ourselves and others.  I personally don’t believe in drinking alcoholic beverages, so if I sit down at a table with some Christian friends and one of them orders a beer or wine, I have to call on my maturity as a Christian to help me understand that not everyone sees the path that same way that I do.   Now, if they shows signs of addiction to alcohol, it’s a different story…the Bible specifically forbids that.    This whole section is an appeal to those who are more mature.   In 15:14 Paul wrote “I don’t really need to write this because you already know it, in fact you could teach these things…”  so he understands that he’s talking to the more advanced believers.    Generally speaking, it’s the new believer that insists that there is only one right list of ingredients, or one right way to dress, etc.   It’s as we grow and develop (and mature) we realize that God has given us more latitude than we imagined.   I don’t fault those who insist on a more conservative path however, because many of us have “addictive personalities” and would not do well if we allowed a little bit of certain things into our life.
Verse 19 is a good summary:  “aim for harmony and build each other up”.  If we truly love one another, we won’t be pushing the limits of what is possible knowing that our expression of freedom is hurting someone else.   People who truly love one another go out of their way to make the other person happy and content.
Paul mentions that he is planning to travel to Spain.  That would have been his “fourth” missionary journey, not counting the one where he went to Rome and was martyred.    It’s widely accepted that Paul never made it to Spain, however there are some who suggest that he did.  If you are curious, just type “did Paul ever make it to Spain” into your browser and see what pops up.   Church scholars love to argue about this kind of thing, since we aren’t allowed to argue with each other about most other things…
A few thoughts:  Paul prayed that he would be protected from enemies in Judah as he went to Jerusalem to drop off money.   It was probably dangerous to travel with an amount like that…but that’s not what Paul is worried about…he knows that some of the Jews want him dead.     And, he wants them to pray that the people who need the money will be willing to take it.  That’s interesting.  I wonder if personal pride would keep them from it?
Priscilla and Aquila turn up again in this reading.  They were from Italy, traveled with Paul for a while, ministering in Corinth, and then stayed in Ephesus when he left to continue his journeys.   Somewhere along the way they found their way back home to Italy, where this letter finds them.    They are considered one of the first missionary couples, and Priscilla is widely accepted as a teacher in the early church. (some even believe that she wrote Hebrews..but that’s a stretch).  Her husband was probably ordained a bishop of Asia by Paul, and the couple were eventually martyred together.    When it comes to christian couples, you won’t find a better example of couples in ministry than these two.
I was impressed by the large number of friends that Paul has in Rome.  He clearly has had some communication with them, or knows what is going on there already.   There must have been other letters, or reports from friends.    Paul was cared for by a woman whom he “adopted” as a mother.   You know, I hadn’t thought too much about Paul’s family.   I don’t know what happened to his parents, but if they were strict Jews they probably disavowed and shunned him when he stood up for Christ.   How wonderful that God provides another woman to love and nurture Paul in a motherly way.   God never leaves us without a family, even when we are called to leave a family behind.   when I look at the list of friends that Paul is greeting, I see another side of his  ministry.   We don’t hear too much about Paul being relational, but he clearly had friends who cared for him, believed in him and encouraged him.    Paul truly loved the people that he was ministering with, and took great satisfaction that his faith in God was being multiplied through them.
The mature believer will:   have many friends, because they are a good friend themselves, will love others genuinely and deeply, and will go out of their way to make sure that relationships work.