July 19, 2020. A Homily: Indebted for Christ’s Sake

First Mennonite Church

July 19, 2020

Indebted for Christ’s Sake

Text: Romans 1:14-17

14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 —hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

How do we feel about having debts? Why do people get into debts? What are some the kinds of debts people have?

What extreme measures do some people take to get out of debt? Any story?

The joy of being debt free.

(See stories below)

Paul says that he is a debtor. He owes something to various kinds of people. And that is, the preaching of the Gospel. Preaching is not a formal address, necessarily. Preaching, however, means the deliberate effort to communicate a message. And for Paul and every believer, the message to be communicated is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Announcing the gospel message might be through words, but most obviously, through the way we conduct ourselves. We might not have the time nor will there always be an opening for verbal communication of the gospel, but through our attitude, casual encounter and interaction with other, people are able to perceive whatever force or whoever personality influences our lives. We know the saying, “Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.” In the believer, that is, in my life as in yours, Christ Jesus should be the most powerful influencing force that the minute we open our mouth those who listen to what we say should perceive that Christ has shaped our thoughts. The very moment we meet someone, that person should be able to see that our personality and character reflect something that is beyond mere refined or controlled behavior.  

Roman society at the time of Paul was severely splintered into various groups of people: there were roman citizens and non-citizens, wise and unwise, Greek (“cultured/civilized” people) and barbarians, freemen and slaves, theists and atheist (this is how Christians were considered for not worshipping Caesar, the Divi Filius “son of god.”

Paul had an overwhelming sense of indebtedness, first to Christ and then for everyone Christ died. Aware of this sense of inescapable obligation to Christ Jesus, Paul felt bound and indebted to those of the cultured society and those who were considered uncultured, to those who were wise and literate just the same as to those who were not.

Verse 15 in the KJV reads this way: So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. Paul expressed his readiness with which he wanted to fulfill his duty, to pay his debt to these people. So, as much as in me, reflects Paul’s heartfelt commitment and eagerness. He was ready to give his all to fulfill his obligation to all peoples.

It is in the context of Paul’s revelation about his burning passion to declare the message of Jesus Christ to all kinds of people that he triumphantly exclaims the well-known verse 16, of Romans one. For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. What Paul declares here is not simply that he is not embarrassed to declare the gospel, but that he has not disregarded any group of people in announcing to them the gospel. Shame, once again, is not a feeling of embarrassment, but the result of failed expectations. What this tells us is that unless we have respect and a sense of indebtedness to all people, we cannot claim not being ashamed of the gospel. If put in a positive way, we can only claim of not to being ashamed of the gospel when we have a profound sense of indebtedness to everyone.  

As we know so well, we live in a time when regard for others is not in most people’s minds. Whether it is openly expressed or not, we can tell that most people do not feel much of a commitment towards others. These are the ones who make true the saying, “It is every man for himself.” This feeling is especially visible between people of different social classes: the rich toward the poor and likewise the poor towards the rich; the formally educated with the less educated, those of the left vis-à-vis those of the right, and often times among the various races. There is very little, if any at all, sense of obligation towards the other.

Paul’s sense of indebtedness towards all kinds of people should raise our level of consciousness on how we regard others. There might be various groups of people with whom we might not have much in common. There might be those with whom we simply cannot agree on various issues. We might be tempted to discount them or even have very little sense of respect for them. However, let us remember that by discounting any person or group of people we will not be able to say we are not ashamed of the gospel. Paul was a free man, but he lived as a bond-slave for Christ. He, therefore, had an overwhelming sense of obligation towards all kinds of people for whom Christ died. This feeling should also be for every believer.

Let me close with the words of Peter and Paul:

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (1Peter 2:16, 17).

 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8). Amen.

Pastor Romero


(Story found on money.cnn.com of a couple that paid their $200,000.00 debt in two years.)

Moved to a city for cheaper rent, ate at home, drove far to get cheaper groceries, etc.).

Pressure of indebtedness

In India, close to 60,000 farmers committed suicide in the last 30 years. Drought is one reason, but the main is the pressure of debt these farmers have.

In February (2017), owing 80,000 rupees (£945), the husband of Radhakrishnan stood outside his bank branch in the city of Trichy, and consumed a toxic concoction. He died on the spot.

“He had talked about things like this [suicide] happening with others, but never about doing it himself,” said his wife. Some days after, Radhakrishnan and her daughter in law went to the bank with wads of rupees and paid the debt. “We told them, we have repaid your money, now will you give us back my husband’s life?” she said.[1]

[1] Theguardian.com. July 2017