I don't think I've ever quite felt like one of the epistles was written with such direct implication for my life as I have felt recently. Paul may have thought he was just writing a letter of encouragement to the early Christian church in Rome but I feel like it was intended just as much for me as it was for them. As I study it each chapter reveals something new that I can apply immediately in my life. It's very refreshing at a time I need it most.
I cherish this feeling deeply because, let me be honest, it's not how I always feel about the Bible. And maybe, just maybe, that's how you feel sometimes, too.
Many of you might not know this about me but I'm a huge fan of The West Wing. I used to live for West Wing Marathon Mondays on Bravo because it allowed me to catch up on all seven seasons of one of the greatest television shows ever (my opinion). My favorite season is the very first one. I own it on DVD and have memorized countless quotations, including the following one from the third episode, "A Proportional Response" as recited by President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen):
Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus -- I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens.
I really like how the phrase civis Romanus just rolls off the tongue. Just try it. See?
And I really like how the phrase civis Romanus sum means more than just "I am a Roman citizen." It also implies all of the rights and protection Rome offers it's citizens. Even the Apostle Paul himself used it in a trial before Caesar which temporarily suspended the judicial process while he was taken back to Rome.
So as I've been reading the book of Romans, I've been saying to myself civis Romanus not only because I can relate to the early Church Paul was addressing in his epistle but because I also cloak myself in the protection of a greater power offered to me by the Real Author of the Book.
So what about you? Do you relate to what you read in the Bible? Are you a Roman? How about an Ephesian or Corinthian? I encourage you to try reading one of the epistles (anything ending with -ian works) and read it for what it is - a letter addressed to the church, which includes you if you're a believer. You might find that reading The Message helps convey the feeling of a letter like it did for me but, whatever you choose, feel free to share with your comments.