Pastor Bob Walton of Crossroads Christian Church in East Montpelier preached this morning on Romans 15:4:
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Imagine reading the “Old Testament” through this prism, finding hope and encouragement during our “light and momentary troubles” by seeing the faithfulness of the LORD to his enduring people. And if ever a word described the Hebrews/Jews, it is “enduring”. I can think of no other people group (from western civilization, anyway) that has kept faith, scriptures, identity and history intact for over three millennia! Blessed by a faithful God with an enduring spirit, the Chosen persevere in their Chosen-ness. May it lead them to grace and redemption.
Sadly, this same perseverance has led most (but not all) Jews to steadfastly reject Messiah. In some ways one can hardly blame them, as early church Christian love was soon replaced by centuries of religious hatred and exclusion, including stonings, Easter Week beatings, pogroms (the Russian word for “thunder”), and the torture killings of the Inquisition.
I John 4 gives me two words about the Jews and for that matter any other “group” that confess Christ as God’s son, come to earth in the flesh:
First, they are not of the same Spirit as me: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
Second: the same Spirit in me (but not them) causes me to love. If I do not love, I may doubt whether the Spirit is in me. In fact “I” may really be one of “them”: Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
So – the next time I find myself in a group of Christians (on Facebook, maybe?) ripping the Jews or the Palestinians or bashing the LGBTs or condemning any generally non-confessing “group” – I will try to remind myself: the Spirit in me (but not them) hates all sin (including my smug apathy about their rebellion) and loves me, and them, with a love so pure as to humbly wash dirty feet, clean up after people in AIDS dementia, and build cultural bridges across which the beautiful feet of those bearing the Good News may walk.