God is Rooted in Life
April 21, 2016
-by Megan Castellan
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
I had a good friend in college with whom I would discuss theology late into the night. It was sort of a game to us—posing, then answering, very theoretical questions of existence, divine will, and the problem of suffering, over coffee and pie at 2 in the morning. My other friends did not see the appeal of talking endlessly over some issue like atonement theology. What could it possibly matter, in our daily lives, when our days were mostly focused on the routines of studying, passing finals, and discerning a social life?
Speaking for myself, it mattered a whole lot. During my mother’s recent bout with cancer, I had been on the receiving end of a lot of well-intentioned but misguided theology. I had begun my own small collection of “Things Never to Say in the Name of God” as a result, featuring such hoary chestnuts as “God is trying to teach you a lesson”, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and my personal favorite “This is clearly part of God’s plan”. Theology, in times of crisis, is no longer theoretical; it is downright practical. It is our underlying theology, after all, that forms how we act and live in the world, that shapes who we are like a skeleton—either bones growing stronger and healthier by the day, or growing more brittle through disuse.
Paul, even for his several sins, understood that theology was always rooted in the specific life of people. His letters, even the ones we use for heady theological purpose, are geared towards answering concrete problems the community is dealing with: suffering, loss, conflict, etc. He was aware that what he told them about God would impact how they lived, how they treated others.
We encounter God, after all, in our press of our living. God does not choose to stay high in a tower, to be visited on rare occasions. God, and the relationship to be found in Christ, is meant to be worked out daily. And so, these things we say about God should make us stronger, better, healthier people.
Make a list of the most helpful things you have heard about God, Jesus, Christianity, etc. Feel free to share via social media with #healthytheology