Summary: God does not giv e up on us. He keeps showering us with his love, grace and mercy.
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 “Tenacious”
During the Battle of Britain, in World War II, Winston Churchill has been quoted as saying, “Never give up, never give up, never give up!” I have always thought these words rang true for Christians as we walk as disciples and servants of Jesus Christ and face seemly insurmountable obstacles. Paul’s words today, in his letter to the Roman Christians, convinces me that Churchill’s words could also be used to describe the Lord’s movement in our lives and in the world in which we live.
Paul spends three chapters in his letter to the Roman Christians discussing God’s relationship with his chosen people, the Jews. We have spent the last two Sundays struggling with Paul’s words seeking to apply them to our lives today.
In his closing statements, which are contained in this verse, Paul makes the stark, bold claim, “Hell, no! God has not rejected his people” (Rather meekly translated in our text as “by no means). Previously, he has based this claim on Old Testament stories and theology. He now bases his claim on himself and what God has done in his life.
Paul was an educated Jew. He had a rather distinguished pedigree and identified himself as a Pharisee. As a conservative, traditional, observer of the law, Paul opposed the new sect called, “The Way” (whose followers were later called “Christians). He didn’t just voice his opposition, but rather actively persecuted the early disciples of Jesus Christ. He imprisoned some and stood by while others were executed. In his writings, Paul states that he considers himself the “chief of sinners.” Living in opposition to the God whom he sought to serve, Paul was amazed that God would single him out, appear to him on the road to Damascus, forgive him, give him the ability to believe, and respond to God’s grace with faith.
Paul wasn’t the only imperfect person that the Lord has used. Jacob, one of the fathers of the Jewish people was a liar and trickster. Moses was a murder with a speech impediment—he stuttered. King David was a rapist and murder. The disciple/apostle Peter betrayed him. The list of imperfect people is endless, both in the Scriptures and in the history of the church.
For example, John Newton, the writer of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace,” was a captain of a ship in the slave trade. Raised with minimal exposure to religious practices or teaching, he found himself calling out to the Lord, “To have mercy on him,” in the midst of a storm that threatened to sink his ship. Later he referred to this event as his “Great Deliverance.” The fact that God has reached out to him and drawn Newton to himself even after what Newton had done and who he had become inspired Newton to pen the words to Amazing Grace.
God is a tenacious God. According to Paul, the Lord will not stop moving in the lives of the Jews drawing them into a faithful relationship with him, and God will not stop moving in our lives inviting us in to a closer walk with him, and transforming us in to his image.
THE HUMILITY OF GRACE
I recently read a book entitled, The Evolution of Faith. In the book, the author argues that the Christianity should drop its insistence that humankind is in bondage to sin. He supports his argument with several interesting points, and eventually comes to the conclusion that Christianity’s stress on sin is too negative and against the characteristic of God--God would never make imperfect (non-good) people.
It is an attractive argument, but it doesn’t work for me. (I don’t think it would work for Paul, either.) First, I’ve met some people who believe that they have attained a level of sinlessness. I haven’t been impressed by them and didn’t agree with their claim of sinlessness. I found them usually to be self-righteous, with a distinct holier-than-thou attitude. They were not nice people who frequently did evil, nasty, unloving things in the name of Jesus.
The second reason I have trouble with the author’s argument is me—myself. I can describe myself in many ways, but sinless is not one of them. I don’t think that I’m alone in this. Most of us try to be good people. We know, however, that even at our best we are a little “rough around the edges.” There are areas of our lives that we don’t like, and some areas of which we are ashamed. We fear being too transparent convincing ourselves that if people knew what we really were like they would reject us and flee from us. The good news of God’s love and grace is that our goodness doesn’t cause the Lord to love us anymore and neither does our sinfulness persuade God to love us any less.