Exploring Romans 1
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” begins Robert Frost in his famous poem, The Road Not Taken, “And sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth; / Then took the other…”
He is describing a crossroads of sorts. It’s a place in his life where he must choose one of two ways to go. To be ‘one traveler’, one unsplittable person, means that he cannot choose both of the two diverging paths, though each look inviting. Both call to him with possibilities.
He ends the poem by reflecting, “I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” The crossroads was, indeed, a significant place for him. His life took a completely different track and course because of that choice.
Crossroads and diverging paths are like that. Every decision, small or large, moves us inexorably away from where we are, into new territory, into a future than would not be reality for us had we chosen otherwise. It can be daunting to think of that, but it’s true.
The ancient writer and apostle Paul describes the same phenomenon in the introduction of his letter to a ragtag group of people living in the hub of the Roman Empire mid first century A.D. These people had made a dangerous choice in that era. They had committed themselves to believe that a man they’d never met, who had been executed by the Roman Empire some twenty-five years earlier, was their best hope in life. They were entrusting themselves to this Jesus Christ, believing that He was no ordinary man, but actually the Son of God, now risen from death and living by His Spirit within them.
It was a crossroads for them, because they would now be hunted down by the Roman regime. Family and friends, coworkers and compatriots would begin to turn against them. The Emperor of Rome himself would, within a decade, use them as a scapegoat to take blame for starting the great fire of Rome, and literally feed them to lions to appease the angry Roman citizens. It was important for this tiny group of believers to understand just what this crossroads comprised.
The common path of humanity, explains Paul, diverges at the historical point of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Here, at a place he calls the gospel, “a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” This is one road.
The only other road is described in negative terms as “those who knew God (but) neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him”. Paul describes the future outcome of this path. He says it leads to futile thinking and darkened hearts, where the honouring of the glory of the immortal God is exchanged for man and animal worship. Unfortunately, that route leads to ultimate self-destruction, says Paul. It is the literal dead end for humanity – but darkened hearts can’t easily see that.
These are the only two alternatives we have. This is where two roads diverge for every one of us. We either humble ourselves to accept that God designed our ideal destiny to be accessed by faith in His Son Jesus, or, we end up chasing an elusive and dying pipedream of self-worship, earth-worship, or some other philosophy of worship.
Entrusting ourselves to God’s provision of Jesus is the road less traveled by that will make all the difference for us. It looks weak on the outside but it opens up for us a future of God-endorsed adventure and fulfillment.
So today, if we want to choose to follow that road less traveled by, we can begin by giving glory to God. We can thank Him for Jesus and His work of forgiveness, and we can move into His path for us by following in the direction of Jesus. Today’s crossroads holds great hope for those who are willing to walk the faith path. Are you on it?
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons; Carsten Tolkmit)