17 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to watch out for people who create divisions and problems against the teaching that you learned. Keep away from them. 18 People like that aren’t serving the Lord. They are serving their own feelings. They deceive the hearts of innocent people with smooth talk and flattery. 19 The news of your obedience has reached everybody, so I’m happy for you. But I want you to be wise about what’s good, and innocent about what’s evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Throughout Romans, Paul instructs Christians about being a welcoming community for all who serve the Lord. Here in Chapter 16, Paul gives thanks for those who are building community but then cautions about human deception. He speaks about those who would cause division as they serve their own feelings. Paul reminds us to keep away from such division and to stay in community.
But Paul also reminds of Christ’s caution of “the adversary,” Satan. Humanistically, people crave socialization and human interaction and perhaps this can lead us to falling prey to our vulnerabilities. As a church, being and building God’s community is partly what defines us. In fact, I believe our hearts hurt whenever we miss being in community, however we choose to define it. Perhaps such hurting may lead us to a disconnect from God’s love. Whenever we do not turn to God through prayer for our needs, we are prey to division and evil.
Particularly in a world-wide pandemic, it’s easy for us to fall prey to our vices when the whole word is hurting so much. Maybe we just want to feel relief, to forget and numb our pain for a bit. We need to be aware of the ways that these impulses point to a sense of disconnection within ourselves, to one another and/or to God’s love.
Instead, we use prayer as a way of strengthening ourselves and not becoming prey to our disconnection, division, deception, and doubt. Through Paul’s prayer for the Roman community, he reminds us that the message of Jesus is meant to strengthen our resolve. Our constant connection in prayer through Jesus builds us up. This constant connection binds us to one another through God’s grace, meant to be shared in community for all.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
What is it that can cause you to feel disconnected from yourself, your community and/or from God? How do your vices, particularly in a hurting world, make you feel vulnerable? How does being a part of a church community strengthen your resolve? Can you reach out to someone today who knows and understands your connection through Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Gracious God, let the good news of Jesus Christ strengthen our resolve. May we resist the lies and deceit that hold us back. May we sense community in all that we do that binds us together and build us up in love and commitment to one another. May we be blessed and kept stronger together, so that we may serve with full hearts even in a hurting world. Amen.