"For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who has faith." - Romans 1:16
I once asked Jim Forbes, a professor of mine at Union Seminary, to help me understand the difference between predominately white and predominately black churches. I asked because I experienced a power in the worship of the black church that I didn't often find elsewhere.
Jim, whose background was in an African-American Pentecostal church, pondered my question, then said, "In predominately Caucasian congregations people believe God needs them; in predominately African-American churches, people understand that they need God."
Of course, that's a generalization, but so was my question. And there's a truth in those words real in my own life in this way: for much of my life I have found it easier to offer help than to ask for help. Admitting "I need help," can be a tough thing to do. Even, in a way, shameful.
As the apostle Paul began his letter to the Romans he said a striking thing. "I am not ashamed of the gospel." Why would he have been ashamed of the gospel?
Paul was a man who had worked hard to attain perfection and status by his own efforts. An unexpected encounter with Jesus led Paul to a sudden realization: the one thing he most needed was to accept the help, and the grace, of God. To embrace the gospel was to embrace help — and to not be ashamed that he needed it. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who has faith."
In the end, the two parts of Jim's answer to my question are a both/ and. As we accept grace ourselves, we become gracious to others.
Holy One, grant me the courage to ask for your help and the confidence to know that even before I ask, you have already said "yes." Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.