Reading Romans chapter 9, 10 and 11 this morning and thinking about human genetics and grace. These are unique and marvelous chapters in the new testament that are vital keys to understanding the old testament. Paul's heartbreak and hope are so clearly expressed as he speaks about Israel. The contrary cultivated olive tree. Cultivated in that they were groomed for generations as 'God's people' but never coming into their own. Some people surrendered to God's grace over the nation's lengthy history but as a whole the nation failed. The failure was not a surprise to God. In fact the broken branches of the olive tree were used so that other wild (uncultivated) branches could be grafted in to the tree.
This is really a wonderful mystery.
"For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." - Romans 11:30-36 ESV
These chapter are loaded with amazing concepts and principles about evangelism, desire and human nature. They are challenging to read... but this morning I marvel at God's use of national failure and make clear parallels to my our life... my own failures.
"What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone," - Romans 9:30-32 ESV
This cultivated olive tree wanted to live in it's identity as the people of God. On the whole the wrong methods were employed. Paul warns the wild olive branch that it could suffer the same fate and in many ways it has.
God is not surprised.
We all face our future in different ways. We all have 'genetic predispositions' that orient us... seeming pros and cons of who we are and are not... things we want to change... things we value...
"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you." - Romans 11:17-18 ESV
Our identity can be in who we are as a branch but God wants our identity to be in the root. He went to great lengths to graft in non Jewish people to convince the nation that he raised up a Messiah out of of this important distinction.
Grace reveals to us an identity that is not based in nature or nurture... genetics or upbringing... those things become a platform for pride or blame... our identity is in the root... the gracious one... pride and blame are nullified in that arena. Striving to be something ends and being who we are by the grace of God begins.
So, will we just be good boys and girls? If that is our conclusion we stumble at the same stumbling block that Israel did. That road leads to idolatry and destruction because we pursue a goodness we can NEVER attain to. We can do something else... something that befits the new nature God gave us at the moment of our salvation. We can be believers! People who actively believe God in the context of grace... not struggling against our genetics in Adam but transcending it in Christ. That is a life of satisfaction. That life is salt and light in the world.