Letter to the Privileged – 2

16 10 2015

[In continuation of my first post on this topic.] Why do we need to study Romans 1-4 with new eyes?  Paul spends these chapters seeking to break the grip of privilege from the grasp of the Jews — the insiders of his day — to help them see that the gospel is given expressly for the Gentiles (the outsiders) just as fully as the Jews. Those privileged with lineage, heritage, possession of scripture (their law), a rite of identification (their circumcision) are wrong to see these as basis for acceptance by God. None are worthy. None inherit salvation from fathers. All are unworthy. Only faith in the finished work of Christ brings inclusion.

The Jews believed that Abraham, the father of their nation, gave them an inside track with God, but Paul says that even Abraham received righteousness by faith, not works. Anyone — anyone — can have Abraham as their father if they share his faith in God through Jesus Christ.

Generally, the church today has succumbed to the same error as first century Jews. We are content to believe that, by God’s grace, we have been shown the light of the gospel while others lie outside the scope of God’s saving love. This troubles us, but we have grown theologically resigned to it.

In a way, we have our own reliance on a kind of circumcision. The word has the idea of cutting around in a circle. Those so cut are marked for inclusion. Everyone else is uncut, or excluded from the circle of belonging.

Why is this important for us? Wherever we are content to enjoy inclusion for ourselves, even feeling entitled to it, we repeat the prideful judgmentalism which Paul exposed. The result is exclusion of those who are as much beloved by God as ourselves, whether by omission or commission. I believe this condition is pandemic in the church today, a life-threatening virus which spreads unchecked in the comfortable climate of ignorance and unrepentance.

And bad theology produces bad activity. That is why in these articles I make a claim that convicts me personally:

The single greatest impediment to the advance of the Christian faith among all peoples is the prideful entitlement of those who already believe — an attitude which results not only in apathy but judgmental exclusion of those whom God loves.

The good news is for those who have received bad news.  As all people, even Jews, have sinned, all people, even Gentiles, can believe and be saved. Or to paraphrase Paul’s point: As all people, even privileged believers, have sinned, all people, even despicable unbelievers, can believe and be saved.

For “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

So what must we do?

First, we must re-frame our understanding to correspond to Paul’s teaching of “Jews” and “Gentiles” and apply that truth to our current context.

Typically we see the Jew-Gentile contrast as past history which has long ago been settled and laid to rest. We figure that the gospel has come to us (the Gentiles) so Paul’s expose is now academic in its cultural and social implication. We admit it must have been a radical teaching in the first century A.D. but has less direct application now that the gospel has gone far beyond its Jewish roots.

However, we must apply the sin of exclusiveness to our day by seeing that now, we who rest contentedly in our faith without a passion for lost people fill the role of “Jews” in Romans one through four. The “Gentiles,” by application, are the likes of Arabs, “terrorists” posing as refugees, the undocumented immigrants, the atheistic evolutionists, and those of an alternate lifestyle whom we have assigned a place outside the circle of favor and inclusion.

I will reserve three more recommendations for the next post….


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28 10 2015
Letter to the Privileged – 1 | Robert E Rasmussen.com

[…] But how do we do that? I will continue this discussion in a future post….. […]

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