Revolutionary Love: Dismantling Hierarchy and Pushing Boundaries (Romans 10:8b-13)
By Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis
I must confess that I am an African-American woman, a Christian woman, a woman who believes there is more than one path to God. Working in the Black Lives Matter movement with people of many faiths, I get a little fidgety when I hear the words "confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead." I think, "Hey, what about my Jewish friend Stef? She is not confessing the Lord-ship of Yeshua/Jesus. What about my friend Hussein? IS he not saved?" I just don't like it. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." What about that little girl in an orphanage in China? She is actually not likely to hear the good news, no matter how blessed are the feet of those who bring it.
This is the desire in Paul's heart, that all would be saved. The Gentiles who have attained righteousness because they have faith. Israel who thinks they have righteousness because of the law, or inheritance, or genealogy.
Paul wants them to stop stumbling, these people of his, over the stumbling stone. The cross is a scandal, and they are stuck there. Their heritage, their identity as the people of God can be a stumbling place as well. They don't quite get that what they are seeking cannot be attained the way they are pursuing it. Torah and covenant can't be attained as though by works; it was never about works. Torah is a heart thing. It can only be fulfilled with heart, with faith.
The Messiah is the telos-the end-the completion of the law. The Messiah is the foundation stone of the new temple that is in the hearts of the people. The temple that IS the people. This One who is one of them, who is ethnically and culturally and religiously one of them is also the first fruit of the Others. Those who are ethnically and culturally and religiously different are righteous because of what they believe in their hearts, because of what they confess with their mouths.
The Torah is near you, on your lips, and in your heart, the Deuteronomist claimed. The Messiah is the Word, the Torah, to be near enough to the lips to be confessed, and in the heart as faith. So says Paul.
There is a new covenant in the Messiah. God has kept God's promise of restoration. God's righteousness need not be questioned; God's faithfulness is unprecedented. God's generosity is magnanimous. All of the people-Jews and Gentiles-are God's people. All of the people-Jews and Gentiles are saved by God. The way to that wide-open space of salvation is faith in the Messiah. Faith that Yeshua-Jesus is Lord. Faith that God raised him from the dead.
That the Messiah is saves. That the Messiah is is the goal of the law, the purpose of the Torah. The Messiah does not negate Torah, the Messiah does not Torah. The Messiah is the climax of the salvific narrative that features God and the people of God.
Yeshua/Jesus is Messiah, is Lord, is Torah, is the means by which God claims all of God's people. The distinction of Jew and Greek disappears because Messiah is Lord over all. The human family is bound together; we are all sinners. And the human family is bound together, we are beloved; we are the people of God.
Our über identity is that we are in Messiah. God is not so stingy as to keep this Grace from those who are not Jewish by birth. God's lavish, wide-open space of salvation is for all who would put a confession on their lips, put faith in their hearts. This is the One who came to save. The confession of the Messiah-ship of Yeshua/Jesus is the confession of the Lordship of Yeshua/Jesus. The confession of the Lordship of Yeshua/Jesus is the confession of the Love-ship of Yeshua/Jesus. Confession of what God has done in the Messiah is bearing witness to Love that came all the way down to heal us, to teach us, to save us.
When we confess the Lord and Love-ship of the Messiah, we have to love our neighbor. (How can we love God whom we can't see and hate our neighbor whom we can see?) Acknowledging the Messiah/Lord/Love confession is a Revolutionary Act. It is a confession of Revolutionary Love that turns things upside down.
If God comes in the Humble One, in the Poor One, in the Vulnerable One. If God comes as baby, as homeless child, as refugee and immigrant. If God comes as despised One occupied by Empire, then to believe in the One is to believe in the marginal spaces and those who live there. To believe in that One is to believe that everywhere there is oppression, love must take up residence. To believe in that One is to believe in the value of the wretched of the earth. The value of first nation people. The value of differently-abled people. To believe in the Nazarene is to believe that women's lives matter, that queer bodies are "awesomely and wonderfully made," that Black Lives Matter.
The particular claim of the specific flesh of Yeshua as Messiah dismantles hierarchy, pushes boundaries, puts in the center what has been overlooked, loathed, and discounted. To confess that Messiahship-Lordship-Loveship of the man from Galilee is to make a radical claim for the way God is fond of the Other.
I read this text and I think if Paul had kept writing, he would have written. "God is Love, and those who abide in Love abide in God and God abides in them." Yes, John penned that, but I think Paul would have. I think he would say-I think he is saying-that the thing that dismantles hatred and fear and suspicion and enmity is the Messiah, the embodied Love of God in the flesh. That this Love creates one humanity (as in Jesus is our peace, taking down the dividing wall).
So, I think when my friend Hussein bears witness to the Qur'an's call to justice, when he confesses that Allah calls him to love his neighbor, he is confessing the Loveship. I think when he marches for justice, when he stands up for the value of Black Lives, when he and I speak February 14th at a Love Rally, we are both confessing the Loveship. I think when my friend Stef heeds the 36 times she is called to Love the stranger in the Torah, she is confessing the Loveship. When she disrupts oppression by organizing for voting rights, she is confessing the Loveship.
Yeshua/Jesus is Messiah. Lord. Love.
That Love dismantles our stuff. That Love claims my life. I confess the Love. I Love the Love.
Bible Study Questions
Jesus was a big surprise to the Jews of his day whose idea of Messiah was of a Mighty King who would crush their oppressors. What are some examples of how Jesus showed up and what/who he valued?
How does Jesus' 'loveship' hold as an example to us, thousands of years later? What sorts of actions does it point us toward?
Think of someone you identify as outside your circle, for whatever reason. Maybe it is someone you really do no like. What are some steps you could take to build community with that person?
For Further Reading
Stephanie Spellers, Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other, and the Spirit of Transformation
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