We assume that one of the greatest challenges in life is not to come up with the right answer. Really, the greatest challenge is to come up with the right question. What is, is. Things happen, We live and struggle for meaning as we live. We try to make sense of life as we make our way through it. Answers are all around us, waiting for the right question, so that they can root in our hearts and grow into wisdom. So, the right question found is the way opening before us into understanding.
Paul has walked us through some pretty big answers toward the realization of some very profound questions:
- Answer: Nothing separates us from the love of God
- Answer: God's intent for creation is to redeem it
- Answer: There is a hope for redemption that is fulfilled through God's promises made real
- Answer: We ALL have a part to play in that process
But what is the question? The right question? That's the bit that is difficult to come up with, in no small part due to the diversity of peoples that Paul is writing to in this letter. In case you hadn't noticed yet, Paul is not just writing to "the Romans." He is writing to Jew and Gentile, slave and free, and really everyone, past, present and those yet to come along in history. He is attempting to lay groundwork that reveals a promise of God fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. That revelation will then impact not only our individual lives, but also the very awareness we all have of history...of the whole point of creation itself. Really. All of it, summed up and directed toward one purpose, the effect that redemption incarnate has on everything and everyone.
So, on to the issue of the Big Question: can you verbalize it? Is it there at the edge of your perception? Are you able to turn your heart and your attention toward it, and thus bring your personal perspective to bear on its challenge?
The Big Question...
Am I in, or am I out...and how do I know it?
Or, more succinctly...
Paul, in chapter 9, hits this question square on. He takes on the issue of the Promise...and how we participate in it, or reject it, and how that impacts our perception of God at work in our lives. He challenges us to let go of judging God for seeming to make some people stiff-necked and others more open to faith and trust in the Almighty. He breaks assumptions we might make over linking fortune to favor. He pulls the rug out from assuming that suffering denotes disfavor. God is working God's purpose out...and that purpose of the redemption of creation. We all have a part to play in that process, and while for a time suffering is, there are also moments of peace and rest. There are times when we really hurt, both in our own persons and on behalf of others; and there are times when we know respite and relief. Look to Ecclesiastes, or to the prophet Hosea as Paul does, or to the great Existentialist himself, Job for guidance and clarity...
Our big question when it comes to working out a deeper understanding of God's purposing our lives? Why. What follows will be Paul coaching us on our response to the question. It turns out that in Christ we have a larger role to play that we might have previously assumed to be the case.
Are you ready to ask the question? Are you ready to have the answers you thought were "true" challenged and reshaped by the One who continues to form creation and history itself?