Targum :: Romans 1.1-17

by Brian Walsh

Paul, a slave of Jesus the Messiah, called to a ministry of authority in a world that is suspicious of all authority, set apart in a world that attempts to construct a bland consumerist sameness, proclaimer of nothing less then the gospel God, the good news of God’s radical kingdom.

This gospel, this kingdom proclamation, is nothing new. It was promised by the Hebrew prophets and it is the news of Jesus – the Son of God. This Jesus is a blood descendant of the infamous King David but was pronounced to be God’s Son by the explosive power of the Spirit of all that is pure, all that is deeply right, when he rose from the dead.

He isn’t the Son of God because he was elected, or because he has the most economic power, or because he commands great armies. No, he is the Son of God because he blew apart the power of death.

This is Jesus the Messiah. This is Jesus who I dare to call my Master. It is through this Jesus, the Messianic Master, that I have met a grace that makes beauty out of ugly things, the deepest of all gifts.

And it is through this gift of grace that I have received my call to proclaim his good news in order to bring about faithful obedience amongst all people. I do this subject to his name.

If I am to be branded, then let me be branded with the name of Jesus. He is my Master, not some corporate logo. And I do this inviting others to bear the brand of Jesus, including you, my friends, who are happy to be known as belonging to Jesus.

To all of you who live in the empire of global capitalism, to you who live at the very heart of that empire and are called out to be an alternative people:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace. You won’t have one without the other, and both are on offer from Jesus.

I am so thankful for all of you. You see, while the CNN news that issues forth from your town throughout the whole world tends to be about the exploits of the empire, there is another news that comes from the heart of the empire.

The news of your faithfulness has been proclaimed throughout the world. Your commitment to the poorest of the poor who live within walking distance of the corridors of power, your courage in standing up against the injustice of fair trade agreements that serve the rich and exploit the poor, your audacity in praying on the steps of the hill where the political leaders hatch their conspiracies – all of this is liberatingly good news, and it filters out to the very furthest reaches of the empire.

I tell you that the God whom I serve in announcing the liberating good news of his Son, bears witness to my constant prayers for you all. And what I pray is that I might actually get through the homeland security wall in order to get to you.

The longer I have been delayed and blocked from coming to you, the more severe has the ache in my heart become. What I want is to come and bring you a measure of grace that will give you the strength to go on against all the odds.

But to be honest, I’m looking for some encouragment too, and I am sure that I will find it in the midst of your alternative discipleship community.

You know, my friends, I’ve been trying to come to you for years now so that I could join in the revolution that you are a part of. This irresistable revolution of Jesus is breaking out everywhere, and I want to help it happen at the heart of the empire. But there have been obstacles along the way.

Sometimes other urgent ministries came up, and sometimes (as you know) the authorities have blocked my way. But here’s the thing. I will not play by the rules of the empire.

I will not go along with their racial profiling, their immoral surveillance tools, their demonization of any and all who would dare to not fit, who would dare question the inherent goodness of the empire and the story of progress that it proclaims.

Because I follow Jesus and proclaim his good news of redemptive love, I am obligated, indeed I am indebted to both Americans and Iraqis, to Canadian troops and to the Taliban, to Jews and Palestinians, to straight and gay, to wealthy and impoverished, to the educated elite and the illiterate poor, to those who fit and to those who don’t.

And because I am indebted to all, including those most excluded, shameful and despised, I am incredibly eager to come to your city – the very heart of an exclusionary empire – to proclaim the embracive good news of Jesus.

And here’s the kicker, friends. I will not be ashamed of this gospel. I refuse to be ashamed of this gospel because I will not submit myself to the empire’s categories of shame. I will not be ashamed of this gospel, even when it is perverted and employed for shameful purposes by those who would make Christian faith the handmaiden of the empire.

I will not be ashamed of this gospel because it is nothing less than the power of God that can blow apart the empire as it brings salvation – real salvation, not the cheap consumerist salvation of the empire; real salvation, not the salvation for democracy that is imposed by the empire’s military force; real salvation, not human centred immitation that is proclaimed in the empire’s stories and symbols – it is the salvation of God for everyone who is faithful to its call, to the Jews who brought us Jesus first, and then to the non-Jews.

Why am I not ashamed of this gospel? Because in this good news about Jesus we meet the righteousness of God. The world is put to rights when the restorative justice of God is revealed. You want an ‘infinite justice’? Then don’t look to the violent justice of the empire, but turn to the justice of God manifest in Jesus tortured in a Baghdad prison, executed by imperial forces.

In this gospel we meet an Operation Infinite Justice that realizes its goal by non-violently resisting the empire precisely through the Messiah subjecting himself to the violence of the empire…unto death. The good news of Jesus has an empire-overturning power precisely because in Jesus the embracing and forgiving power of God is revealed.

And it is revealed through God’s faithfulness in Jesus Christ that calls forth our faithfulness as subjects of his coming kingdom. That is why, in the shadow of an earlier empire, the prophet Habakuk wrote that, “the one who will be righteous will live by faith.”

Righteousness, justice, faithfulness – all in the shadow of empire. This is the fruit of the gospel that I long to proclaim in your midst.

Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

2 Responses to “Targum :: Romans 1.1-17”

  1. brian walsh: targum of Romans 1:1-17 «

    […] March 7, 2008 by Dale Read Romans 1:1-17 (in a good, easy to read translation like NIV or CEV), and then check out Brian J. Walsh’s ‘targum’ (an interpretive ‘modernisation’ of a given passage) of it…  (Copied from here) […]

  2. Targum :: Romans 1.1-25 « Empire Remixed

    […] of idolatry. Could idolatry be at the heart of all of this? In this blog, Brian Walsh picks up on a targum that he had written some months ago on Romans 1 and continues the thread through Paul’s […]


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