To be Roman
by Josiah Audette
Romance is a misapplied notion, but one society holds dear. We evaluate our lives, relationships, and even dining-out based upon how romantic they are. Put in summary, a good book, a true relationship, a fulfilled life is one that is a truly romantic. I have heard it said that the term romance literally and historically means, “To be Roman.” Considering what it means to be Roman we visualize a gallant soldier crowned with glory riding back from a victorious battle and swooping up a fair lady to his side while at full gallop. Much similar to medieval tales of heroic nights in shining armour, which is the common substance of our Disney fairy tales after all. Thus, romance could be summarized as a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with the exceptional actions and identity of another.
Naturally, the actions and identity of which we speak are no ordinary actions or identity, they are Roman! They are awe-some, they are out-standing, they are extra-ordinary, they are wonder-full in relative comparison to our own menial, quotidian lives. To perform such actions, to own such an identity in life is romanish, it is literally, romantic. Now you see the truth of the matter. To be Roman, to be romanish, to be romantic is to execute great feats toward the accomplishment of a great end. It is to live almost surreal, almost a fictional life. But that is just the point, it is fictional. Fictional in the sense of what we believe true greatness to be.
Don’t mistake me, we are to celebrate and be attracted to great actions, great identities, and great ends. Our mistake is in construing what true greatness actually is. True greatness is not the romanish of a Roman, but the Christlikeness of Christ reflected in a man or woman, or portrayed in a book, or our exemplified in life. This is a radical difference. It requires a radical change in our expectations and desires. I admit it is easy to be attracted to the romanish, the romantic. It is exciting and exceptional. It makes for unforgettable tales and stories. But, it is a much more difficult thing to be attracted to the Christlikeness of Christ.
The acts of Christ and in some sense the end of Christ is no glamorous thing. To many it is boring, average, and ordinary. It is a daily, quite, routine life of humility, meekness, mourning, and unenviable service moment by moment. Make no mistake, the Kingdom of Christ is far removed from what you will find in the Kingdom of Rome. Christ’s Kingdom is for the meek. Rome’s kingdom is for the proud. Christ’s Kingdom is to serve. Rome’s kingdom is to be served. Christ’s Kingdom is dominion. Rome’s kingdom is domination. Christ’s Kingdom is for the last. Rome’s kingdom is for the first. Christ’s Kingdom is God’s glory. Rome’s kingdom is man’s glory.
Christians have fostered a misplaced adoration for the romanish that is found in the kingdom of Rome, because they view their lives in the kingdom of Christ as somewhat boring and want to escape into that particularly heightened quality of feeling that arises within them over the exceptional actions and identity of the romanish, or the romantic. But the Christian life is not boring, it is challenging. It is far more challenging to execute the acts of Christ because Christ’s great end is a hundred times more difficult, a thousand times more strenuous than what we read and see in the romanish romance.
Why do we do this idolatrous escapism? We all know that Christ’s kingdom is truly great so why are we instead overly attracted to the kingdom of Rome? Because we are following our feelings. Remember once more the definition, a particularly heightened quality of feeling associated with he exceptional actions and identity of another. We all want that emotional high, whether it be from a relationship, book, meal, or personal endeavour. Yet it is hard to get excited about seeing Christ presented in any of those things. It is easier to be attracted to some romanish qualities in another person or thing over and above their Christlike attributes.
So the answer to the romantic conditioning of Walt Disney, and pagan fairy tales, and medieval folklore is no. No, I will not follow my heart inconsequently. No, I will not follow my feelings unconditionally. No I will not be a romanish romantic but Christlike as Christ. Rather I will treasure, adore, and consider first and foremost that which is Christ. Then you will notice the particular Christlikeness in another and then your heart will follow and your feeling in turn. For instance, we as Christians establish the greatness of actions by how they reflect God’s glory, not man’s. “And have your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that they which speak evil of you as evil doers, may by your good works which they shall see, glorify God in the day visitation.” We as Christians establish our affections not on the romanish but, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are worthy love, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, think on these things.” We as Christians establish even our greatest earthly attraction towards another in marriage on the same grounds that Christ has established his attraction towards his Church! “That he might make it unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blame.”
The Christian’s calling to “lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness, and honesty.” To live righteously, to love their wives, to honour their parents, to disciple their children, to shepherd their churches, to confront culture is no piddly-piffle. It is God’s chosen means to multi-generational faithfulness, cultural reconstruction, church edification, nation building, and Christ glorifying. These average men and women, boys and girls, are God’s greatest assets in bringing about his greatest work, which is, the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Do not escape to the romanish of the Kingdom of Rome, but seek first the Christlikeness of the Kingdom of God with pluck and aplomb. Go forth and serve your King.