I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them.
I can think of lots of good reasons to share the gospel with people. As a pastor, I regularly preached the good news of God’s love in Christ to those who were not believers. I wanted them to experience God’s grace so that their lives might be transformed, both in this life and in the life to come. I preached so that they might become active disciples of Jesus, partners in the work of the kingdom of God. But I must admit that I never thought about preaching to some so that others might be jealous. Thus, at first glance, Paul’s reasoning in Romans 11:13-14 seems odd to me.
According to this passage, part of the reason for the salvation of the Gentiles was to make the Jews jealous. This helped to motivate Paul in his ministry to the Gentiles. Indeed, it was part of God’s own reason for saving the Gentiles (v. 11). If only the Jews might see how blessed the Gentiles were to receive God’s grace, perhaps they too might be open to embrace that which had been offered them in the first place.
Though we don’t tend to use the language of jealousy, there is a sense in which we want those who don’t know Christ to see what we have as Christians and to want it for themselves. One could call that a sort of jealousy. Indeed, if people can see in us the joy of being forgiven, if they can witness our freedom to forgive others, if we are willing to love sacrificially, freely giving away that which we have so generously received from the Lord, perhaps they will want what we have and be drawn to the Lord.
Human beings are usually jealous of those who have what they cannot have themselves. The wonderful thing about the jealousy of Romans 11 is that it opens people to receive what they can have for themselves…the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever felt jealous of other Christians? Why? Are you living in such a way that people who don’t know the Lord might be jealous of your relationship with him? Is your faith sufficiently visible to draw others to Christ?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must admit that this whole notion of jealousy seems strange to me. But as I reflect upon what Paul is saying, I realize that I do want people to be jealous of what we Christians have in you. I want people to see in me the joy of knowing you, the comfort of your forgiveness, the love that flows from you through me to others.
Though I don’t think I’ve ever prayed quite this way before, I would ask that people might be jealous of the bounty you have given me, so that they might turn to you and receive your abundant grace for themselves. May I live in this world in such a way that people want what I have in you. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.