2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21; Romans 11:13-36; Psalm 22:1-18; Proverbs 20:7
Our Romans reading is so interesting (yes, I know, I’m biased because I love Romans) – pride, racial division, God’s plan for bringing humanity to himself. I love how Paul reasons all of this out. Let’s take a look.
We see in Romans 11:16 that the Jews are described as the first fruits, the dough that make the whole lump holy. In Paul’s agricultural analogy, the Jewish nation is the root that makes the branches holy. This is a not so subtle reminder to Paul’s Gentile audience that the Jews are not to be discarded. Though they did not fulfill their initial purpose of leading humanity to God, they are still part of God’s plan and not to be overlooked.
Paul continues in his tree analogy to liken the Gentile converts to wild olive shoots that only have space on the branch because the original branches were broken off. Paul doesn’t want his Gentile audience to lord it over their Jewish counterparts, thinking they are somehow better because they were not pruned off. He says, “They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe” (Rom. 11:20, emphasis mine). Paul knows this Roman church – they are divided racially and trying to one up each other. The Jews take pride in being the original branch, close to the root; the Gentiles take pride in being grafted in because of the Jews’ failure. Both races are trying to elevate themselves over the other.
Does this sound familiar? On a macro level, this is still happening all over the world; the United States is no exception, “enlightened” though we claim to be. Our differences drive us apart. We let racial prejudices lead us into all kinds of terrible acts against humanity. We just passed the one year anniversary of the Dallas police shooting, a crime that left five officers dead and nine other killed, because they were white. The shooter, Micah Johnson, said he was responding to the many black lives that had been claimed by white police officers throughout the nation, like Michael Brown who was shot in Ferguson by a white police officer. And it’s not just race that divides us; we also recently passed the one year anniversary of the gay night club shooting in Orlando. 49 people died (50, if you count the shooter) because of prejudice and hate.
And on a micro level, this is even truer. I’m confronted on an almost daily basis with my own prejudice and pride – I judge the working mom because she made a different choice for her family; I want my daughter to go to the school up the street, rather than our neighborhood one, because I think there will be “more people like me” there. I am filled with my own sense of importance because I have always walked with the Lord and “have so much to offer” – Paul’s words to the Gentiles are piercing for me – “For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (Rom. 11:21).
Are there areas on your life as well that need to be examined? Pride that needs to be addressed or prejudices that need to be confronted? My prayer today is that we would all submit to the tender care of God, as he prunes the areas of our lives that need his attention.
- Esther McCurry
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