The Book of Romans provides valuable guidelines for believers regarding several aspects of life. Specifically, insight regarding the natural world, human identity, human relationships, and culture can be found in Romans. Paul asserts that the natural world is a direct product of God’s creation and that God is omnipresent in every aspect of nature, from the minute to the enormous.
Regarding human identity, Paul underscores how we are all merely human beings, and we do not reserve the right to judge and condemn others. In short, we are all the same in the eyes of the Lord, as he does not play favorites, according to Paul. When discussing human relationships, Paul cautions against unnatural sexual relationships, which is particularly relevant to today’s society. Lastly, Paul asserts that the Spirit should govern a culture, and that people should live according to the Spirit even if the culture in which they live does not. All of these topics are critical for shaping my world viewpoint, particularly in a world intent on distancing itself from the truth.
Paul provides strong insight into the natural world within the first chapter of Romans. Specifically, in Romans 1:20-21: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In other words, God’s presence is everywhere throughout the world, from the massive mountains to the tiny insects that crawl along the ground.
This topic strongly affects my worldview, particularly in a world that tries to separate itself from God. Countless people, from scientists to schoolteachers, will argue that the universe happened randomly, not as the result of God’s creation. However, it is important to note that people should also know God through other means aside from nature: “When Paul says that ‘what can be known about God’ is plain to all, he does not go so far as to affirm that a person can know God through the observation of nature and/or unaided reason alone” (Hultgren, 2011, p. 91).
In addition to the insight into the natural world, Romans also provides thoughtful commentary regarding human identity. Specifically, Romans 2:2-4 cautions against judging others: “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” These questions strongly affect my worldview, especially when Paul refers to us as “mere” human beings. In other words, we are not God, even if we try to be, which we never should. Due to our mere size and stature, we must refrain from judging others and instead focus on demonstrating righteous behavior, which Paul urges in Romans 2:7: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” Paul also states that God does not prefer one group of people over another; in Romans 2:11, he says, “For God does not show favoritism.” This is another important topic to keep in mind when examining my worldview, as it can be easy to think that God favors one group of people over another.
Aside from human identity, Romans also highlights important aspects of human relationships. Specifically, Romans 1:26-27 addresses homosexuality: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” In other words, these verses assert that homosexuality is unnatural, and this issue is especially relevant today as increasing numbers of organizations, including churches, condone homosexual practices. This issue is very controversial today, but Paul’s guidelines are unmistakable.
Lastly, Romans offers valuable guidelines regarding culture, guidelines which grow more critical with each passing year in today’s society. In Romans 7:2-3, Paul provides guidelines regarding divorce and sexual purity: “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law if she marries another man.” This strongly affects my worldview because today’s society treats marriage almost as a joke, and the common sentiment that reigns throughout society is that people should just divorce if they are not happy and move on to someone else.
Other times, people remain married and have affairs, which have gained increasing acceptance from others. Part of the reason for this increased acceptance is due to society’s general obsession with sex, which Paul strongly cautions against in Romans 8:5-6: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” In other words, even when living in a culture completely obsessed with pleasures of the flesh, we should strive to live according to the Spirit, even if this striving leads to our starting a type of counterculture very different from the one in the 1960s.
The Book of Romans offers extremely valuable guidance regarding the natural world, human identity, human relationships, and culture. These guidelines were not only relevant during Paul’s time, but also our time today. Paul states that the natural world is filled with God’s presence, and that one needs to simply look at nature in order to be reminded of God. Regarding human identity, the Book of Romans states that we are all equal and that we are all merely human, which means that we should focus on our own righteous living instead of others’ behavior. In addition, we should strive to have healthy relationships with one another and not engage in unhealthy sexual relationships. Lastly, our culture should mirror the guidance of the Spirit, and even if the culture does not do so, our own lives and behaviors should. Ultimately, Romans is a timely guideline for issues ranging from our identity to our culture, and it should be referred to in times of doubt. Luther (1967) notes, “To this day it remains true that whoever does not believe, will be ashamed of the Gospel and contradict it, at least in his heart and conduct; for he who finds pleasure in that which of the flesh and of the world, cannot find pleasure in that which is spiritual and of God.” This sentiment is important to remember, particularly when one needs to keep temptation at bay. Above all, remembrance of God’s grace and strength prevents falling into deception.