When Familiarity Doesn’t Help
Romans chapter 9 moves in a different direction; one that I find very interesting and also at times hard to understand. Let’s read the first five verses: “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Before his conversion to Jesus, Paul was a religiously Jewish man. He is also ethnically Jewish. In these verses we read Paul’s anguish and grief over the fact that the vast majority of “his people” have rejected the revelation of Jesus Christ. This grieves him so much that in verse 3 it appears that he would allow himself to be separated from Jesus if the Jews would trust in Jesus. Then Paul brings out the point that the Jews should have had an advantage. They were the people of the covenant. They were the ones who had the godly history and heritage, so far as God’s activity in their lives. And yet, they rejected Jesus. The next couple of chapters speak to this reality. For me today my mind went to those who have been raised in a Christian environment, who have been surrounded by the trappings of Christian culture, who have never truly received Jesus as Savior. I’m quite sure that many Jewish people were simply going through the motions in their “worship” and their Jewish religious lives and so when they were confronted with the Messiah, there was no connection. I fear that the same thing happens with cultural Christianity. Many people have been raised in the church but have not been converted to Christ. The familiarity has not been a helpful tool but has allowed people to just sort of roll along…never having been converted. We must endeavor to not allow the culture of Christianity to replace the Christ of Christianity. Few would do that intentionally but unintentionally do we emphasize the external trappings and practices of Christian faith in a way that masks the lack of external transformation? For example, many place great emphasis on “going to church” on Sunday morning, as if the very act of attendance has some divine merit. But mere attendance has no merit at all, and in fact, can be rationalized as “enough” in the minds of some. I picture an analogy with Jewish people in Paul’s day and prior bringing an animal to sacrifice expecting their sins to be forgiven when in fact, their hearts were far from God. I wonder if you have any practices that you might add to the comment section where Christians need to be cautious about creating familiarity that doesn’t really help?