Debtor to the Greek and the Barbarian…”

At dinner in San Francisco, CA with a couple I am going to marry next, year, Blair Parkman and Howard, "Howie" Norman and his family, and my wife and family
At dinner in San Francisco, CA with a couple I am going to marry next, year, Blair Parkman and Howard, “Howie” Norman and his family, and my wife and family

How many of your friends could you describe as a “Barbarian”? How many people might describe you as a “Barbarian”? What constitutes a “Barbarian?” Is it the way they sop their gravy with a crust of bread, pick their teeth with a fork or knife, walk around with dirty, stained underwear, or no underwear at all, or will savagely fight to the death at the drop of a dime? Are these the people who are sexually voracious with little desire to eat or drink, but only want to begin their ritual of intense intimacy without concern for sensitivity or mutual pleasure? Or, are these the people who are slaves to money, addicted to access to profit, and devoid of concern their investments and economic behavior might cause? The “Barbarian” could be described as a person who has some or all of these characteristics.

How can a person be a “Debtor to the wise and the foolish, the intellectual and the barbarian? The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Christians in Rome, says that a large measure of his interest in coming to Rome is that he looks forward to intellectually and spiritually engaging people from many different perspectives. Rome was a center of both intellectualism, but also depravity. Paul says he can learn from both ends of hedonistic depravity and intellectual and spiritual uplift. In like manner, you and I are made better people because of the different kinds of persons we meet along the way.

My life is richer because of the diversity of persons I have met. I have learned from the thug, drug dealer, corporate criminal, female exotic dancer, prostitute, financial and intellectual nerd, and the self-interested bully. I have also learned things from the spiritually and intellectually erudite and the gut-bucket, finger licking chicken eater and the suck it to the bone, sloppy rib eater. God’s grace is extended to all. Sometimes though, we settle on our narrow cave of relationships and personal preferences. The Apostle Paul is a reminder to me that we can learn from persons of all stripes.

Though it all, what really matters is if we can teach and preach Christ crucified to all whom we might meet – without judgement regarding the character of the persons before us.

Romans 1: I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 —hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome. [1]

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What are some of the challenging elements to sharing your faith in Jesus Christ to persons of different backgrounds and perspectives?
  2. What does this passage of scripture say to you?
  3. How can this scripture help you and others with your faith?



Lord, teach me to learn from both the wise and the foolish. Bless me with relationships that are both genteel and gross. Remind me that the world is made up of many different types of persons and that I am neither: best or the worst; the smartest or the dumbest, the most mannerly or the most uncouth. In like manner, I pray that you might give me the perfect words, an engaging spirit and an inner peace that can calm the barbarian, inspire the intellectual and be simple enough for the dullard to understand that Jesus is real, your salvation is free, your mercy and grace are redemptive and your love is all encompassing. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray. Amen


Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III

Photo by Nicholas Hood III

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[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Ro 1:14–15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.