topics worth the tussle #5: the depth of “shallow romans”

“Topics Worth the Tussle” is a series of themes that might be useful to wrestle with. Whether it’s to teach these topics or just to consider how well your students are living them out, these often undervalued themes might be worth another look!

I appeal to you therefore… (Romans 12:1a ESV)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. (Romans 12:17 NIV2011)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1 ESV)

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (Romans 13:13 NASB)

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:13 ESV)

My community group at church has been marching through the Book of Romans, and this week we turned the corner from chapter 11 to chapter 12.

If you’ve forgotten the structure of Romans, chapters 1-11 mostly present very complex theological issues. While it’s not fair (or accurate) to describe those chapters as strictly “Theology” and the last five chapters of Romans as strictly “Application,” the book’s structure does lean that direction.

Theology is, of course, extremely important. The problem is, these days plenty of our students think they’re solid Christians because they’re “Romans 1-11 Christians.” They know what to believe, they know theological terms, they know “deep thoughts” from the likes of John Piper or C.S. Lewis or Matt Chandler or A.W. Tozer or Don Miller or Relevant Magazine or the more “complex” parts of Scripture. Wherever they are on the theological spectrum, these students place a lot of stock in what they know.

But we and/or our students need to wrestle with the Therefore of Romans 12:1. Urging us to become living sacrifices, Paul appeals to us to “by the mercies of God” – the same mercies he’s just spent 11 chapters describing. If these eleven chapters are true, then this is how you’ll actually live, he says. So if we’re not up to the task of Romans 12-16, then we apparently don’t grasp “theology” at all. Or, as Peter puts it, “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (II Peter 1:9).

Romans 12-16 isn’t really the “shallow” part of Romans, though our students sometimes think that way about “little things” like hospitality and harmony and humility and honoring others… just four of the twenty-seven-or-so commands in the second half of Romans alone.

The “topic worth the tussle” here isn’t just Romans 12-16 (though that could be a phenomenal text for a message series!). What’s worth tussling over is whether our college students realize that “deep Christians” are the Christians who live out our theology, not the ones who can only debate it skillfully.


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  1. Pingback: topics worth the tussle #6: one chapter, five big impacts « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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