I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. 6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. 9 For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” (Romans 9:1-9)
What love! Paul was willing to forfeit eternal fellowship with Jesus if that would turn his biological brothers from despisers of Jesus to disciples of Jesus. He’s not saying this lightly. He was serious. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know that I could say I have that much love. I would give my life for my wife, my kids, my country and a lot of other people. I love them that much, but I also know death means eternal fellowship with Jesus. Lord, help my love for souls grow! Help us all grow in our care for the rescue of our Jewish neighbors who don’t know Jesus.
Love needs to see the problem, not just the results. Heritage plays a major role in knowing who you are – finding dignity in your identity. Paul knows all about the amazing heritage claimed by the biological descendants of Abraham: the Temple, its worship practices, the revealed Law that set them apart, the heritage of witnessing the divine glory – the Glory of the Lord, their adoption and their future revealed in God’s promises.
The problem: claiming this heritage by pedigree rather than by promise - their right by birth, rather than rebirth. Pedigree is the pride of royalty, racehorses, and Kennel Clubs. The pride of God’s people is his promises – undeserved gifts of the gracious God proclaimed in the reliable Word. It is not ours by birth, but by his gracious adoption. Speaking frankly - Pride in pedigree is for the dogs.
Any people who have a heritage of God’s grace – 2, 3, 5, 10 generations - are warned by the example of the Jews Paul wept over. Our heritage of the gospel of grace, the confession of the truth, faithfulness to God’s Word is only ours if we know that it is pure grace, if we are consistently conquered by God’s truth, if we faithfully hold to the Word as our lifeline of undeserved grace. We can only claim God’s Word is our Great Heritage if the Word has claimed us first and keeps on claiming us daily. Then we are empowered to look with empathy and compassion on our neighbors who hold to a heritage without the gospel. Including our Jewish neighbors.
Jesus, help me to know your undeserved love, and to fan the flames of my love for everyone whose identity is not rooted in your promises!