Since the beginning of the world God’s invisible qualities . . . have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. (Rom. 1:20)

JACKSON BROWNE’S SONG “THE PRETENDER” depicts someone who gave up on pursuing his highest dreams and now struggles just to make a buck. “Say a prayer for the Pretender / Who started out so young and strong / Only to surrender.” The lyrics are a warning to those who would settle for a false life.

Similarly, Romans has been a wake-up call for many throughout history. Martin Luther identified many Protestant themes from it, and while reading Luther’s commentary on Romans, John Wesley came to feel his “heart strangely warmed.” The doctrine of justification by faith—the idea that we are saved through the righteousness of Christ and not through our own works—is at the core of the epistle.

Yet Paul first wants to convince us that God’s wrath is directed deservedly at the wicked of this world, and that they know this to be true in their very core. Pretenders can go on living as if all were well, but the proof that all is not well is undeniable when observing the world as it is.

Whether in the tranquil rural home or among the cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods or even the patchwork apartments of the urban core, people are seeking a life worthy of their true selves. Jesus teaches us that only a life directed away from self-preservation to things eternal is worth living.

Examine the fruit of your life and ask, “Am I living out my purpose?”

Richard Eckley is professor of theology at Houghton College and serves on the Women in Ministry Task Force for The Wesleyan Church.

© 2018 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.