Saturday, October 7, 2023

God Shows No Favorites – We’re All the Same 

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus once again verbally jousted with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. He told them a parable about a king who invites people to his son’s wedding, but when the invited guests refuse to show up, he instead declares that everyone and anyone could now attend the feast.

Jesus’ message to the religious leaders was clear: the chosen people, the Israelites, rejected God’s invitation when they rejected the Messiah. Because of this rejection, the invitation was offered to the Gentiles. 
Needless to say, the religious leaders were incensed to be told that the lowly Gentiles were now being viewed favorably by God. In their view, the Israelites were God’s chosen people (true). They also thought this meant God ignored all the other pagan people (untrue). Their problem was a limited, self-centered understanding of God’s love and mercy. They just couldn’t imagine that God would want to save the very people that they hated. 

This parable — along with a few others in the Gospels — has been used by some people over the years as evidence that God completely rejected the Jews and now favors the Christians. But these people are making the exact same self-centered, prideful mistake the religious leaders of Jerusalem made.

Let’s review: As part of God’s remarkable plan of history, He selected a tiny group of people through whom He would reveal Himself to the world. He chose Israel (hence the expression, “The Chosen People”). God did this not because of how wonderful they were, but more likely because of how obscure they were. This way, whatever notoriety and success they achieved would be attributed to God rather than to their own abilities. 

The religious leaders in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago thought their status as “God’s Chosen People” meant the Gentiles were hated by God. But they conveniently forgot such Scripture passages as, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him” (Genesis 18:18), and, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). 
In the same way, far too many Christians during more recent centuries have condemned Jews as being out of favor with God. Again, sinful pride is the root cause of this behavior, which, if we were talking about children, would be along the lines of, “Nyah, nyah! We’re special, and you’re not! Nyah, nyah!” But since we are talking about adults, the results instead have been more along the lines of the Inquisition, the Third Reich, and present-day anti-Semitic skinheads. 

These so-called Christians conveniently forgot such Scripture passages as, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), and, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26). 

The apostle Paul explained it best in the tenth chapter of his letter to the Romans: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” 

God is not into denominations, ethnicity, or any of the petty things that bog sinful human beings down. Instead, He is into love and mercy. That’s what Jesus was trying to explain to the Jewish leaders. It’s what Jesus was trying to explain when He spoke the most famous verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). 
The love of God is offered to everyone. The invitation to the heavenly banquet is not limited to those folks born into the proper lineage. We’re all invited. All we need to do is accept this glorious offer by faith.

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