Friday, September 21, 2012Scripture Reading—Romans 11:25-32
Most of us are familiar with Paul’s statement in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” That is a truth many of us hold onto in our darkest moments. It does not affirm that everything that happens to us is good or God’s will—only that through all the things that happen to us, God is at work for good. This was clearly one of Paul’s core convictions. This belief is at work when he contemplates what, for him, was one of the most painful realities in his life. The Jews, his own people, had by and large, rejected the good news offered the world in Jesus Christ. (Of course, most of the earliest Christians were Jews and thought of themselves as such probably throughout most of the 1st century). Paul himself was a devout Jew, so devout that he had joined his people in their violent rejection of Jesus and his early followers. This posed a great theological and personal problem for Paul. Why would God’s chosen people, the people of Israel, reject the one through whom all the promises of God to Israel had seemingly been fulfilled? Paul does not take the unfortunate approach that some early Christian writers took in regard to Israel—blaming them for Jesus’ death, and later finding justification for persecution of Jews. (The seeds for anti-Semitism unfortunately can be found in the early church itself). No, Paul believes that God’s love for the people of Israel is unconditional and irrevocable. The rejection of the Christian message by Jews in Paul’s mind, was being used by God as the opportunity to proclaim Christ to all people—Gentile as well as Jew. And at some point, he believes, that his own people will receive back from the Gentiles the gift that disobedience has made possible for them.
It is possible to argue with Paul. Jews would not accept the terms or form of his argument. But I can’t help but believe that Jews and Christians can both affirm the core conviction that underlies Paul’s concern and hopefulness for his own people—God uses all things, even our disobedience, rebellion, and stubbornness for some good purpose as God works out his great plan for the salvation of all the world. Whenever we falter, fail, struggle, or yes, even rebel against God’s purposes, we can take comfort in knowing that God’s goodness and mercy toward us far exceeds our pride, sinfulness, and arrogance. That’s good news all of us need to hear!
Thought for the day: God is so good, merciful, and compassionate that God will not allow even our disobedience and rejection of his purposes to finally destroy us!
Prayer: O God, I do not understand how you working in a world filled with so many problems—hunger, disease, poverty, violence often fueled by religious hatred. In my moments of discouragement, remind me that your intentions for your children’s good will one day ultimately prevail. And let that conviction give me hope. Amen.