Bishop Rob Wright For People Album
For People

About the episode

We should be losing some arguments with Jesus! If we are losing arguments with Jesus, we are being led by The Spirit.

In this episode, Melissa and Bishop Wright have a conversation about St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. They discuss Paul’s revelation that to follow God is to be led by Spirit, and that all are welcome into a relationship with Christ. Listen in for the full conversation.

Before listening, read For Faith.


Bishop Wright: 0:00

One of the ways I like to say this is you know we should be losing some arguments with Jesus in our life. You know, regularly people tell me when they get to you know some difficult intersections. They tell me what they’re not going to do, and I would ask us to think about what are those things that Jesus said we ought to do, which we have decided we will not do? Right, and maybe that’s a place to start. Are you willing to be led across those gaps?

Melissa: 0:40

Welcome to For People with Bishop Rob Wright. I’m Melissa Rau and this is a conversation inspired by For Faith, a weekly devotion sent out every Friday. You can find a link to this week’s devotion and a link to subscribe in the episode’s description. Good morning, bishop.

Bishop Wright: 0:55

Good morning.

Melissa: 0:57

This week’s devotion is called Lead, based off of Romans 8, verses 12 through 17. Off of Romans 8, verses 12 through 17. And it’s about Paul talking about the Holy Spirit, us being children of God, people of the Spirit, et cetera. And we know that there are a number of times in the Bible where the Spirit leads people into whatever situation, whether it be the desert or whatnot. So I’m curious what hits you the most off of this particular passage?

Bishop Wright: 1:30

Well, romans is St Paul’s magnus magnum opus, and I like it because he’s a small town theologian who’s making his way to the big city. He wants to make his case to the sophisticates, to the metropolitan population, and he’s trying to work out—remember and this revelation that has happened to him Jesus Christ being revealed to him as Messiah. He’s trying to sort of invite people into a way of being that now is consistent with what has been revealed to him. He’s trying to thread a needle. He’s acknowledging his Jewishness and at the same time, acknowledging that the fulfillment of this Jewishness of his traditions is now in the person of Jesus. Come among us.

Bishop Wright: 2:44

And his argument is really kind of a simple one, right it is. How do we get in? Well, we get in by being led by the Spirit of God, and those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. So he’s opening things up to all kinds of people who were previously excluded in their understanding of what it meant to be a child of God, at least in his tradition. So it’s an exciting passage. It’s out of this passage that we understand that all are welcome in Christ Jesus, that there’s no litmus test, jesus, that there’s no litmus test. It’s just the acceptance of an invitation to live with Christ Jesus as the center of our life and to follow His ways and His example, his teaching, and to pay attention to His spirituality.

Melissa: 3:40

Yeah. So, bishop, when I read this, I’m curious about the idea of laying down some things, some old things, because to me this is really Paul is very Jewish.

Bishop Wright: 3:51


Melissa: 3:52

Do you think Paul knew what was happening when he would write these? Do you think he knew that he was creating a new expression of faith by standing up for or sticking behind the message of Jesus?

Bishop Wright: 4:10

You know, that’s an interesting question. I don’t think that he thought he was starting a new religion. I don’t think Jesus thought he was starting a new religion, thought he was starting a new religion. Again and again in scripture, jesus basically points backwards to his own tradition, received that he was born into and basically saying the spirit is leading us in these new directions.

Bishop Wright: 4:39

One of the hardest things you can do in religion is to begin to talk about how it’s not static but it’s evolving, it is moving, it’s breathing, it’s organic. And so the question always is is that you know, what do we leave behind and what do we take on? And so I think St Paul is caught right there. He’s trying to make the case. He comes to this through a very rich tradition and sees the evolution of his own tradition now in the person, teachings, example of Jesus Christ. And so I think he’s noticing out loud for us and inviting us into this relationship with God, whom his religion has known, and now this morphing and wants to get us into some new headspace, understanding, heart space, etc. And so, yeah, I think Paul is trying to thread a needle, a very difficult needle, and what I love about Paul is what’s driving him in this regard is not that he just wants to be a thought leader, but some experience has happened to him. We know, as it’s chronicled in Scripture, that Paul started out as opposing this movement. Paul understood himself as keeping his tradition pristine by eliminating the followers of Jesus early on, even being sort of a professional sort of Christian exterminator. And then what happens to him is that now he has an experience of the risen Christ and it changes everything for him, and really one could argue that he spends the rest of his life trying to get his head around that and realizing how seriously he had missed the mark and that this God was bigger than he could imagine and this God wanted to include more people than were simply born in that tradition. And so it’s exciting, it’s dynamic and probably one of the most difficult things he could and we can do these days, which is to see our tradition as something evolving.

Bishop Wright: 7:18

It’s funny to me how what we take now as the status quo at one point was the cutting edge and over time begins to morph into the status quo, only so that new cutting edge things from the periphery can make their way to the center. We think in terms of, at least in our tradition, we think, in terms of women’s ordination, there was a time when we were really clear that women could not serve as ordained people. We were really clear that to be gay or lesbian was incompatible with a faithful life with Christ. And now, in many ways, that has evolved. All of those things have evolved and in my opinion, I’m glad they have.

Bishop Wright: 8:07

But that was a really hard one and really disorienting for a lot of people who were, let’s say, not misogynist or not homophobic, but were really trying to figure out, given Scripture, how do we make our way there? And that’s what Paul is doing. And again, the bar for Paul is to be led by, to live for, to center this revelation in Jesus Christ. All who do that are now the children of God. So it’s a practical way to be in the world that Paul uses as the measure.

Melissa: 8:45

And yet his is an expansive way, right, it’s an invitational way, it’s a way for more people to make their way to that category, if you will. And so rather than shrinking it down and being exclusive and putting up barriers, Paul was trying to be more inclusive.

Bishop Wright: 9:07

Yes, I think so, but not this notion of inclusion as we’re thinking of it today. Sometimes I worry that what inclusion means today is to not have any boundaries and to hold that up as a virtue. This inclusion is about the mind and imagination of God, and I trust that more Our versions of inclusion can be so very subjective and so very reactive. I like God’s version of inclusion, which is all are made in the image of God and all have the divine within them, all have dignity, worth and value, have the divine within them, all have dignity, worth and value, and so that sets the floor height for how we’re supposed to live. I appreciate that in Paul and of course the measure is because that is God’s will and that God has made God self-accessible to all, I think is the best way to think of inclusion.

Melissa: 10:15

Great Friends. We’re going to be right back after a short break.

Melissa: 10:41

Bishop, you have a sentence in here. You say his argument is simple, Paul’s argument all who are led by the spirit of God are children of God. And you said that his sentence should prompt at least one question. Would those who know us best say we are led by the spirit of God. Right. What do you think we could or should be doing in order for us to say yes?

Bishop Wright: 11:06

Well, you know, I think we have to ask ourselves, first and foremost, before, you know, the community is able to affirm for us one way or the other, have we actually made Christ? His teachings, his way disagree with one another? The way in which we treat one another, the way in which we are willing to submit what we think are settled matters to the Word and to the way of God, that’s what makes us led. It’s not just deeds, but it’s an evolving relationship, it’s moving into a great intimacy with God. I mean, when Paul makes this argument, he’s talking about a loving parent’s relationship with their children. And so we’re evolving into what we already are. We’re manifesting the way in which God already sees us as giving us gifts to live out this life. And so, you know, it’s just a great test. I don’t know that we ask ourselves sometimes.

Bishop Wright: 12:17

I think the modern church these days, especially the mainstream church, is so caught up and so desperate, you know, as it faces a decline. You know, as it faces a decline, as it faces, you know, the times shifting, values shifting, that it’s worried about numerical sort of growth over and against, I think, individual Christian growth. We’ve got to move upstream, from our fears about church, death and decline into the space of. Are we living out our Christian story? It may be, and I think that it’s true that part of what we’re experiencing in the mainstream denominational churches is the fruit of our Christian immaturity. So, you know, we look at the vast majority of people sitting in churches for a very, very long time and yet somehow we don’t have great facility with Scripture. It feels like it’s a culture of nice rather than a culture where we are challenging and supporting each other to live differently from the world. It seems like in many places that the church is being converted by the world rather than the church converting the world, or at least offering the world a different way to be and live in the world. And so I think, uh, being led by the spirit means a different way to live. Uh and uh. We were never promised that we would be a majority in a country. We were never promised that uh, this way to live uh would bring all the modern conveniences, and so I think we have conflated modern middle class living with following Jesus, and I think that that has produced some consequences that are regrettable, and so it may be that what is happening now is that things are being burned down, refined, if you will, to their essential.

Bishop Wright: 14:38

There’s an interesting thing about the refiner’s fire scripture talks about which is burns off all the draws and actually purifies the metal, and I wonder if that isn’t happening now, where to be a church member is one thing, to be a Christian is to be something else, and I think Paul is trying to help that be centered for standing around waving floppy Bibles and screaming out repent, repent. I’m not talking about that, but I’m talking about in generosity, in kindness, in disagreement, I’m talking about in obedience to the word. I’m talking about those sorts of ways to be which end up actually being very persuasive to people in the culture. It’s a funny thing, isn’t it, that we’re a culture awash in words, and so what cuts through a lot of words and, frankly, a lot of BS is what people see you doing day to day, or committing to day to day. Day to day, or committing to day to day, and sometimes not in great and grand ways but in small ways at consequential moments, really tell the tale.

Bishop Wright: 16:05

And that’s really what you mean by new integration right Of what we say on Sunday and how we live on Monday. Yeah, I mean, the gap between what we sing and say on Sunday and how we live on Monday should be a gap that we are actively working on closing Right. And so if we somehow get comfortable with that gap, then one has to wonder logically are we in fact led? Are we in fact led? Being led by the Spirit will help you to close those gaps between what we say on Sunday and what we say on Monday. And again, we’re not talking about someone who’s always got a Bible verse in their mouth. We’re not talking about these sort of tragic Christian characterizations. We’re talking about an embodiment, an incarnation of the thing I mean. What is Christ, but the Word of God that has taken on flesh, and I think that was an only Christ task to do. I think that’s the invitation for us, that is, the fulfillment of what we believe is for you and I, in large and small ways, to become this thing. And while we’re at it, let me just say this as I say these words, I recognize the gap in my own life. So I’m not saying this to anybody who’s listening, as if I have somehow arrived simply because I’m broaching the subject. I’m broaching the subject because we are all called and all of us are starting at different places, but we’re all called to acknowledge those gaps and then to offer them to Christ Jesus.

Bishop Wright: 17:32

One of the ways I like to say this is you know, we should be losing some arguments with Jesus in our life. You know, regularly people tell me, when they get to you know, some difficult intersections. They tell me what they’re not going to do and I would ask us to think about what are those things that Jesus said we ought to do, which we have decided we will not do? Right, and maybe that’s a place to start. Are you willing to be led across those gaps?

Bishop Wright: 18:05

Because we talk about obedience, and my joke is that obedience has become a four-letter word and that’s just for the church folks, right? But one of the things that is a part of a life with God, that is a part about being led look at the word led is that we are supposed to submit the way in which we think about certain subjects to the way that Christ thinks about certain subjects and especially individuals. So we are to love as he loved, we are to love what he loved and we are to love who he loved. And if we can think of those three ways on any given week, that begins to move us across those gaps between what we say on Sunday and how we live on Monday those gaps between what we say on Sunday and how we live on Monday.

Melissa: 19:02

So last question, I’m aware that we have a number of listeners who may not be actively engaged in faith tradition or even in a community practice. So when we talk about being led by the Holy Spirit, is there a practical thing that people can do in order to open themselves up to be led if they’re not used to that type of way of being?

Bishop Wright: 19:21

Absolutely, and it starts off with saying Lord, I recognize that you are the Lord of all, I recognize that you’re God Almighty, and we can come to that as we view nature. We can come to that as we view life. We can come to that in a lot of different ways, but to have a heart that begins to give voice to Lord, you are God, I am not, and so I offer myself to you, I say yes to you, I want to know more about you is the first step for us all, and it ends up being the step that even those of us who are a long time in the faith need to refresh ourselves with, which is this yes, I am not the center of the universe, neither are you. God is the center of the universe. God is the creator of all. God is the center of the universe. God is the creator of all, god is almighty. And so I acknowledge who you are, god, by saying to you not me, but you. And so then, show me God. I love the word, the song that says taste and see. So I open up myself today, god, to taste and see what life is when I live it for you, when I live it your way. Show me where you would have me to go, where you would have me to be, who you would have me to serve.

Bishop Wright: 20:45

You know, I mean people take this down into really practical things. How do I live out my life as a spouse? How do I live out my life as a parent? What job do I have? What is the calling on my life? What are the gifts that have been given me? How best to apply them? What is the highest and best of the amalgam of who I am is part of the led life, and what’s interesting is is that when we find ourselves actively submitting to God, to Christ, leadership it’s an, it’s an amazing thing we find ourselves actually in position to exert leadership Right, and and and I think that when you think about it, you know a lot of people who have changed this world for good, many of whose names we’ll never know, but a few that we do know just don’t just were absolutely arrested by God’s goodness, by God’s forgiveness, by this vision of sharing, by this vision of redemption, by this vision of welcoming people back home who didn’t qualify, narrowly understood, as being able to come back home. And yet we get this vision from Jesus, in His way and in His Word, and so I think that’s what it means to be led.

Bishop Wright: 22:10

So I would ask anybody who’s listening, what’s keeping you up at night? What’s hard for you? What’s piercing you? Where do you stumble? Offer those things, actively offer those things. And then find a community of faith, find a spiritual advisor, find a pastor, someone who can walk alongside of you. And I would go so far as to say, and in finding all of that, find yourself a Bible study. You know it sounds primitive these days, as fancy as we are now, but just gorging oneself on the Word of God is a great support. It just begins to really work on like a water on stone, begins to work on your imagination. And so you know, I’m always a little worried about people who sort of I’ve got this whole thing figured out. Well, you know, god bless, I’ve not seen any of us who’ve got it all figured out, whether we’re reading the Bible or not. But I do know this. Reading scripture, a life with scripture, a devotional life with scripture, softens hearts, it heals wounds, it gives direction and purpose. I do know that for sure.

Melissa: 23:26

Love it, I guess, to be led by God, we got to let go and let God right.

Bishop Wright: 23:32

Well, the old saying is that if God is in the passenger seat, as the bumper sticker says, you’re in the wrong damn seat, right.

Bishop Wright: 23:42

The better seat for us is to be passengers with God, and it doesn’t make us passive. We’re not waiting around for some magic to happen, right, but it is really clear about who is the Lord of my life. And when we get to that kind of clarity, then I think an abundance and a clarity about who we are and whose we are can begin to move our life in directions that we didn’t imagine. You know, we shouldn’t end until we say this Paul becomes the writer of two-thirds of the New Testament, and he formerly was the guy who was oppressing and arresting these people who had an initial response and life with Jesus, and so he never imagined that he would become this thing, and so, because of God’s intervention in Christ Jesus, his whole world is flipped upside down, some would say, and others should say right side up. And that’s what can happen to lives, not just 2,000 years ago in a book, but even right now and even in our own lives, if we will say yes in our own lives, if we will say yes.

Melissa: 24:48

Praise be to God, bishop, thank you, and thank you, listeners, for tuning in to For People. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Bishop Rob Wright. Please subscribe, leave a review and we’ll be back with you next week.