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Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 5:1–5
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 afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (NRSV)
This familiar passage of Paul’s treatise to fellow Christians in Rome in preparation for his visit is rich with meaning. Every phrase, almost every word, bears thoughtful reflection 2,000 years later. The opening sentence: “. . . we [now] have peace with God.” One might ask, “Was I at war with God?” Well, there were all those rules and regulations devout Jews of that time needed to follow and ones which we today worry that we should be observing in order to get closer to God: going to church, praying without ceasing, tithing, and more. In just a few words, Paul says we should be at peace and stop fighting God because we have ready access to him via faith and—important to me—via grace. I could go on and on about “grace” and the hopefulness it promises. Just today, I rejoiced with a friend who, because of an unexpected and uplifting friendship, is now beginning to emerge from suffering. “God’s grace . . . unexpected,” we agreed.
Paul continues, writing about how suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces character, and the list goes on, as if all of this bad stuff is good for us. Just as we grimace, worrying that we are weaklings because we cannot persevere after some trial or disaster and therefore lack character, Paul gets to “hope.” Hope is a short four-letter word. Often we use it casually or frivolously. “Hope you have a nice day.” “There’s always hope”—although the speaker and you suspect that the outcome could be hope-less.
But Paul writes, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” In just a few words Paul is saying that the hope we Christians feel is not naïve or transient. It is undergirded by the love always flowing underneath by the sustaining Holy Spirit.
So, when there are trials, let us dig a little more deeply and embrace that hopeful feeling—always available through God’s grace.
Faithful God, thank you for your sustaining presence. As we slog through bad times, help us to reflect on how, in the past, you have helped us persevere and gained strength of character, and, therefore, to look ahead hopefully and confidently. Amen.
Written by Rebecca Dixon, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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