What I’m Reading Today: Romans 9
If you were to ask me where I developed my sense of humanity’s finiteness (translation, “sin”), I wouldn’t say I developed it primarily in my religious education. I learned about sin during the time I spent in the field of politics. Let me tell you that lesson unfolded.
In the decade I spent working in the field of politics (the 1990’s), I heard much talk about how human beings end things like hunger, poverty, and discrimination if we simply got our act together and made it happen.
Once I entered the field of politics, however, I was forced to face the fact that that will probably never happen. Take the issue of poverty, for example. In theory, we can all SAY it is wrong for some people to have so little. When it comes time for us to put our money where our mouths are (i.e. spread around the wealth), the commitment to eradicate poverty seems to magically disappear. Same thing with extending quality education to all. In theory the idea sounds great. The second it involves making changes that would impact the school my child attends; many of us abandon that principle in a heart beat. It would seem that no matter how hard we human beings try, it is impossible for us to overcome two things that drive us: fear and self-interest.
I’ve thought a lot about this in light of yesterday’s election for US Senator in Massachusetts. The media portrayed the election as if it were primarily a referendum on health care. The outcome, we are told, will have a devastating impact on the future of health care reform – as if human beings could fix the health care system once and for all on our own.
Paul’s words in today’s passage from Romans remind me of the dangers of putting too much stock in our efforts. In speaking of what caused some to miss the impact of Jesus, Paul wrote: “How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing” (Romans 9:32 from The Message).
In the past several months, some of us have gotten so wrapped up with a particular political party or platform that we started to believe the answers lay within ourselves. The election called that assumption into question.
If that’s the case, then what do we do? Throw our hands in the air and give up?
No. For me, the answer lies in deepening our connecting with the One who can help us human beings overcome our fear and self-interest. Once that spiritual connection is strengthened, than maybe – just maybe – we can begin to live into the individual and systemic change that desperately needs to occur.
Til next time…