Scriptural Context and Frame
In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman Church, Paul is preparing to visit a church he didn’t start or been to. The letter, of which these verses in Romans 5, are a part of, speak to a range of topics. They lay out Paul’s theology and strongly held beliefs toward the end of his ministry and life. Paul’s letters are often a response to issues within a church he has begun. This is a different case. In these passages, Paul speaks to the topic of suffering and the transformation it can bring. God more than gets us through the hard times. Pastor Richard L. Sheffield observes it’s not that we boast about it (as these passages are often understood. The New International Version (NIV) of The Bible translates “boast” in this text as “we rejoice.” Paul is saying we “rejoice” in the power of God’s love poured into our hearts amid pain and suffering.
Romans 5:1-5 – New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access[b] to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
3 And not only that, but we[d] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Some Thoughts on Today’s Reading—Pastor Pam
While we often talk about love as the center of Christ’s teachings—and love very much is—suffering is also a part of life and core to understanding Christ in our lives.
What a juxtaposition—the experience of love and suffering! How do these deeply emotional as well as physical realities inform us, comfort us and strengthen us in our faith?
Paul speaks to this here in his letter to the Roman Church. In Romans 5: 1-5, Paul writes about the connection between suffering and how it builds endurance. Out of this, he writes, there comes hope. In this hope that does not disappoint, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 5:5).
Now we know from his other letters that Paul suffered for his faith and commitment to ministry. He was beaten and jailed. Even the churches he founded criticized him at times mocking his preaching, for example. In Paul, we get a picture of someone emotionally, spiritually and physically devoted to Jesus Christ. Perhaps in the letter to the young Roman Church, he reflects on his lifetime of suffering and ministry and provides a teaching to believers today.
Paul talks about boasting in our suffering. However, translation is critical here. The NIV uses “we rejoice” instead of “we boast.” I read the text and consider what a miracle it is that no matter what comes our way, God pours God’s self into us through the Holy Spirit. God strengthens us and empowers us. God gives us the endurance and hope we need in seemingly powerless and hopeless times.
It’s not that we should seek suffering or make an idol of it. Paul tells us that in life there is suffering and when we experience it, love sees us through in holy and powerful ways when we are at our weakest.
Peace and Grace,