Open hearts, open doors

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But, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the Law; if you brag about your relationship to God; if you know the will of God; if you are taught by the Law so that you can figure out the things that really matter; if you have persuaded yourself that you are: a guide for the blind; a light to those who are in darkness; an educator of the foolish; a teacher of infants (since you have the full content of knowledge and truth in the Law); then why don’t you who are teaching others teach yourself? If you preach, “No stealing,” do you steal? If you say, “No adultery,” do you commit adultery? If you hate idols, do you rob temples? If you brag about the Law, do you shame God by breaking the Law? As it is written: The name of God is discredited by the Gentiles because of you. Circumcision is an advantage if you do what the Law says. But if you are a person who breaks the Law, your status of being circumcised has changed into not being circumcised. So if the person who isn’t circumcised keeps the Law, won’t his status of not being circumcised be counted as if he were circumcised? The one who isn’t physically circumcised but keeps the Law will judge you. You became a lawbreaker after you had the written Law and circumcision.  It isn’t the Jew who maintains outward appearances who will receive praise from God, and it isn’t people who are outwardly circumcised on their bodies. Instead, it is the person who is a Jew inside, who is circumcised in spirit, not literally. That person’s praise doesn’t come from people but from God. ~Rom 2:17-29 (CEB)

Often when we read verses like these it is easy to skim over them feeling that they do not apply to me since it is written to the Jews in the 1st century Rome. But, if I imagine Paul here today would he say the same things to us Christians?

You may know little Christian/Jewish history so you may not know that the Jews pretty much felt that all Gentiles were only good to fuel the fires of Hell. Also you may not realize that the Gentiles had no respect for the Jews. During New Testament times observing the Sabbath was viewed as pure laziness. Also the Jews received extraordinary privileges from the Roman government because they were Jew. Jews were also accused of atheism because Jews believed that God alone was God. Not only did they not worship the gods of the Gentiles but reverence also was not paid to kings, or honor to the Caesars (Which was a national religion for Roman territories). What really moved the Gentiles to such dislike of the Jews was the fact that Jews had great contempt toward all other religions. Finally, the last straw, was that Jews were accused of hatred of their neighbors and complete unsociability. It was said that if a Jew were asked directions to a place, he would refuse to give any information except to another Jew and that, if anyone was looking for a well from which to drink, a Jew would not lead him to it unless he was circumcised.

It is simply true that the Jews did bring disgrace to God’s name by shutting themselves into a rigid community from which all others were shut out and because they showed such an attitude of contempt towards the Gentiles and a lack of charity for their needs. But what of Christianity? Are we ever accused of rigid views, strange practices, eliteness?

Real religion involves having an open heart and an open door.

Heavenly Father, may my heart be open to others who are different to me. May actions of love point them to You. Help me to remember this day that the only Jesus some people may see is through me. Help me to be Your hands and feet in the world. Amen.

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