I am an American. I was born in Texas and have grown up either in the United States or attached to a US military base overseas. This country is my home. More than that, I have a certain region of the country that draws my heart more than any other, and that’s the region that I have spent the most time, here in the South where we say “coke” then ask if you want Coke for that coke or something else.
That’s who I am. Religiously, I’ve been a Southern Baptist since nine months before I took my first breath. Along the way, I have become a Christian and followed that up with becoming a Baptist preacher. A Southern Baptist preacher. And I continue to live in the South.
In short, I’m as Southern Baptist as Paul was Jewish. And when I look at his words in Romans 9, about his compassion for his people to know the truth. About his willingness to suffer for the sake of his home, I am put to shame.
Paul does not pull back, prop up, and lament how bad off things are and how they would be better if people would listen to him. Paul does not highlight those issues which annoyed him, nor does he lament that no one has come along and revitalized the faith.
Instead, he pours out his heart: that if it were possible, he would be cut off from God for his people. His heart is so much driven to the needs of others that he would pay any price possible.
I then stop and consider all the issues that I see in my own people.
I see the running problem with our heritage of racial issues here in the South.
I see the American government continue its decline into tyranny.
I see the Southern Baptist Convention ignore real issues as if it were a parody of itself.
And I can muster a vague “meh” and think about where my future lies. I shift to wondering why I do not just move on to another time, another place. Why do I care about finding positives to remember Stonewall Jackson by, in place of his slave-holding? Why do I want to see us get back to actually using the Constitution after a ten-year hiatus? Why do I want to see soul competency, priesthood of the believer, and an end to the hierarchy building?
I want it for me. I want my future to be secure, my situation to be fine.
Where is my heart?
That just does not sound like the right thing. It sounds like my attitude falls far short of the ideal. Why will I not pay any price?
This is the challenge of Romans 9. This chapter is not simply about sorting through eschatological issues or discerning the identity of Israel. (Here’s a hint, there: Israel is descended from this guy in Genesis who is called….Israel.)
This chapter is about a simple question: Why will we not make simple sacrifices for the sake of home?
Home needs us. Yet we are worried about a great many other things. More than that, home needs the Gospel.
This is not a call to abandon the mission of telling the world. Nor a call to ignore everything else—I agree with the classic quote that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (first record I can find is Martin Luther King, Jr., although I think I have seen someone attempt to trace where he first heard it.).
It is, however, to make this point: never forget home. Never forget where you came from, and be willing to do whatever is necessary to meet the real needs.
Today’s Nerd Note: The rest of Romans 9 is rich with Old Testament references and allusions, pointing to the electing purposes of God and to the glory of God’s grace. Take a read through it. Think about it.
Then look at Romans 9:21 and consider the old standby hymn that has us sing “Thou art the potter, I am the clay.” Are we going to complain that God molded some of us ordinary, while others got the looks, brains, whatever else? I am what I am.
Let me be grateful for His grace and be used as His vessel.