You is His, You is Loved, You is Special – Romans 1:6-7
By: Alistair Brown
In the 2011 movie, The Help, one of the most touching scenes comes early on when the black maid, Aibileen Clark, whispers to the young white girl in her care, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” The little girl, Mae Mobley, repeats the words back: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” She got it. It was the message Aibileen wanted to soak into the mind and heart of little Mae, the antidote to any sense of being unloved which might come her way.
The Apostle Paul had his own message to soak into the minds and hearts of the Christians in Rome. You is his – you belong to Jesus. You is loved – you are deeply loved by God. You is special – you are God’s holy people.
6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, there are three things Paul wants these Roman Christians to know through and through about themselves.
1. You is his – you belong to Jesus.
A great deal of my time when I was a boy was spent playing soccer. As soon as there was even an hour of light in the evenings, I’d meet up with other lads on a piece of waste ground, throw sweaters down on the ground to make goal posts, and we’d kick a ball around. Those games were very good for my fitness; they were not at all good for getting my school homework done. In those days I was very clear about my priorities, and the priority was never homework.
But soccer had one bad experience for me, and it happened every time we decided to have a properly organized way of picking teams. Two boys would be chosen as captains, and they would take turns to select player after player for their teams from the rest of us. We would stand in a semi-circle and one after the other the captains called out the names of those they wanted. Of course the very best players were chosen first. And then they would go on to their second, third, fourth choices. As each name was called, the player chosen would go and stand beside the captain who had called his name.
By the time the captains were making their fifth or sixth choices, and I found myself still in the semi-circle of the unselected, I was hating everything about team selection. To still be unchosen was humiliating and demoralizing. “Am I that bad?” I would ask myself. “Do neither of them want me?”
Eventually they did. Usually I’d be picked when numbers dwindled to the last three or four boys, and at last I could move over beside one of the captains. But by then I’d be sweating, and the game hadn’t even started.
It is a horrible thing when your name is not called and you are left behind. The dread of that experience is still very real in my mind.
Paul is very clear with the Roman Christians that they’re not left behind. He tells them that they “are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (v. 6). They have been chosen. They’re his.
Literally Paul writes that they are the “called ones of Jesus Christ.” He uses the same verb klētos as he does in verse 1 when Paul describes himself as “called to be an apostle.” So, just as people are called to specific forms of Christian work, so, even earlier than that, every Christian has been called into faith and into God’s family by Jesus Christ.
That means there are three things being a Christian is not.
First, it’s not an accident. It’s not about circumstances or chance or coincidence. There are some things which make it more likely we will hear the gospel, like being born in a Christian family and living in a country with a Christian tradition. But not even the best of circumstances makes anyone a Christian.
Second, it’s not our initiative. A response is called for, but even speaking about ‘making a response’ shows that the initiative starts somewhere other than with us. Back in my summer evening soccer games, I could not pick the captain or the team I wanted. I could listen for my name to be called and respond when I heard it, but I could not force myself into either side. I could be only where a captain chose for me to be.
Thankfully Jesus has taken the initiative with us. “You are his…” Paul is saying to these Romans, “because he has called you. He has invited you to stand with him, to be one of his people.”
Third, it’s not about qualifying by being good. No one can earn their place beside Christ by being super good, nor is anyone left out because they are super bad. Jesus called people from among the tax collectors and prostitutes. Both of those were despised – probably the tax collectors more than the prostitutes because they collected money for Rome – but Jesus welcomed both of them in as disciples. Goodness was never a qualification for belonging to him. Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
Like the Christians in Rome, we are his. We belong. Why? Because Jesus has called us to himself. His choice. His doing.
2. You is loved – deeply loved by God.
He writes: “To all in Rome who are loved by God…” (v. 7).
Literally, he calls them the ‘beloved of God.’ They are drenched in a deluge of love which pours from God’s heart.
There are three things about God’s love Paul would want them and us to know.
-This love is a choice.
I talked recently with a friend whose two children are adopted. His son and daughter are now in their teens and twenties, and they know they are adopted.
I asked my friend how the children had reacted when he and his wife told them they were adopted. “Well,” he said, “it was never a secret. We used the word adoption from their youngest, and as they grew to understand what that meant we emphasized that we’d chosen them. We told them they were our children because we wanted them.”
There was nothing random about those two being his son and daughter. They had been chosen.
Christians are those on whom God has decided to pour his love. They are God’s chosen people. That makes his love a strong love, a firm love, a lasting love. Loving us is no accident or casual event. It is God’s choice.
-This love sees and yet loves.
Often people say: “Love is blind.” God’s love is not blind. He knows our thoughts, our words, our hearts, our motives, our actions. He is fully aware of what we have done in the past and fully aware of what we will do in the future. He sees and yet he loves.
Many years ago I shared all the major things about my life with my friend Jim. We talked many times, and I grew to trust him deeply. Gradually I got past telling him only what was going well in my life, and shared what I was struggling with, the agonies and the failures. Part of me was frightened. Maybe he’d lose respect. Maybe our friendship would be gone. Maybe he’d tell me I wasn’t fit to serve God.
Jim went right on caring like he’d always cared. Sure, he was straight that some things were not as they should be and we worked on those together. But he didn’t lose respect and didn’t waver in his encouragement. In the end I was greatly strengthened. Jim knew me as I really was and still cared, still supported, still believed in me.
Nothing about our lives catches God by surprise. He has loved us always knowing what we have been, what we are now, and what we will be. His love is one that sees and yet goes right on loving.
-His love is unfailing.
One of the marvelous short phrases of the New Testament comes in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” God is not part love and part something else. In every aspect of his being God is love. That means his love is entirely and always consistent.
Any of us who have owned an old car have had the experience of hearing strange, sinister noises coming from the engine. We take the car to the repair shop, explain about the noise to the mechanic. He turns over the engine and that noise… is suddenly non-existent. He switches the engine off and on several times. No strange noise. We explain it was there yesterday, and even while we drove to the repair shop. “It’s not there now,” he shrugs, “so there’s nothing I can do.” So we climb into our car and before we’ve gone even five miles there’s that noise again!
Many things come and go like that. They’re inconsistent.
God’s love is never inconsistent. There is nothing faulty about God and therefore nothing unstable or fickle about his love. As he has loved us yesterday, so he loves us today and will love us tomorrow. His love is unfailing.
Like the Romans, we are truly “loved by God,” or, even better, ‘the beloved of God.’
3. You is special – you are God’s holy people.
Paul’s exact words are they are “called to be his holy people” (v. 7). An older edition of the New International Version translated the last part as “called to be saints” but the newer translation of “holy people” is better.
The key Greek word Paul uses is hagios. There are two fundamental parts to the meaning of hagios. One has to do with status and the other with behavior.
The Romans – like all Christians – were “holy” because they were set apart for God. Their lives were his, no longer their own or anyone else’s. They were stamped ‘God’s property.’ That was their status.
I remember my parents had a small rectangular metal box, divided into five or six compartments. There was a slot in the lid of the box above each compartment, and beside each slot was a label such as rent, electricity, food, coal, and so on. Every pay day, they’d take the cash – always cash back in those days – and put the right amounts in each slot so that when the bills came in they had the money to pay them. The money in each compartment was now sacrosanct. The cash for rent was only for rent, and could never be used for anything else. It was set apart for that purpose and no other. It had a unique status as rent money.
One part of what it means to be ‘holy’ is exactly like that. Christians are given to God and they don’t belong and cannot belong to anyone or anything else. They are holy. They have the unique status of being set apart for God.
The other sense to the word ‘holy’ has to do with how people live, in other words, with behavior. The Bible commands us to be holy because God is holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Pet. 1:16). We are children of the King, and our lives must be appropriate for members of God’s royal family. So we obey God’s commands. So we follow the example set by God’s Son. So we make our Lord’s priorities our priorities.
This is not about cold adherence to a code of ethics; it is a joyful surrender of our old values and old ways of living in response to the God who has made us new people through his Son.
We are very special people, set apart by his love to belong to God and to live for God.
Back at verse 1 Paul began one very long sentence and it has run until verse 7. He finishes – at last – with his traditional greeting of “Grace and peace.” ‘Peace’ is the usual Jewish greeting, and Paul combines that with the word ‘grace’ which is at the heart of all he knows that God has done for us in Christ. “Grace and peace to you,” he writes, “from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
And these Roman Christians – like us – have peace because of God’s grace.
And it has been described in these two verses. His grace and peace are ours because:
- Through God’s choice of us – not anything we deserved – we belong to Jesus.
- Through God’s deep love for us – given even knowing everything about us – we are secure.
- Through God’s gift of making us his people, we have new lives and new purpose.
Truly we do have grace and peace, because – and pardon the grammar one last time – we is his; we is loved; and we is special.
 Played by Viola Davis.
 Played by Emma Henry.