Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, February 19, 2018
Inside, Outside, from All Sides
As my Lenten devotional, I am reading a book of short reflections called Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams. I have such respect for Rowan Williams’ leadership in not only his Anglican Church, but also the wider ecumenical church worldwide.
For years—for decades—I have been fascinated by the Apostle Paul, reading books and articles on his writings and theology. Since becoming a local church pastor almost four years ago, I haven’t had the time to really dig into the life and ministry of Paul. I miss that part of my thought-life, and wish I could revisit more of Paul’s writings, in depth. Since I can’t take the time right now to dive deep into Paul’s thoughts and theology, I felt the least I could do was to read this excellent little devotional on the life of Paul, written by the wonderful theological scholar Rowan Williams.
The reflection for the first Sunday of Lent highlights Saul of Tarsus. He was “staunchly committed to maintaining the boundary between those who were ‘inside’ and those who were ‘outside.’”  Of course, this was before his Damascus Road encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. It was afterwards, with God’s influence and help, that he became a champion of the Gentile converts to Christianity.
However, I was intrigued and moved by Professor Williams’ expression: maintaining the boundary between those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside.’ How much of the Church Universal today is (rightly or wrongly) committed to maintaining similar boundaries? How much are local churches similarly keeping those boundaries—or walls—or other kinds of barriers firmly in place? I think Williams would agree with my serious questioning of this practice.
I am hesitant to name-call or cast aspersions on other Christians or others of different faith traditions. All the same, two adjectives came to mind when considering those who are ‘inside’ and those who are ‘outside.’ First, shortsighted. Second, divisive. Yes, shortsighted in the sense of missing a goodly portion of what Jesus preached in the Gospels. Yes, downright divisive, because of the innate fear, anxiety and stubbornness inherent in us frail, faulty human beings. Oh, how much humanity has to answer for…over the centuries, over the millenia. (And, I fully admit I am right there, amidst the rest of humanity.)
Dear Lord, are we ever to grow beyond this casting of stones and calling of names? This shunning behavior and distasteful attitude? Lord, have mercy. Help me—help us—to repent of our sins (both inside and outside). Lead us to amend our ways and walk in Your path of truth, righteousness, love, caring and sharing. Amen.
Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.
 Meeting God in Paul: Reflections for the Season of Lent, Rowan Williams (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015), 87.