Christianity 201

November 20, 2012

We’re Outsiders on the Inside

This weekend we were reading Romans 11, especially the passage that talks about being “grafted in.”

Ingrafted Branches
11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

We’re not going to delve into that today, that’s just a bonus reading for what I discovered about 30 minutes later in John Fischer’s blog, The Catch in a post titled Outsiders.

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”(John 1:11-13).

We owe so much to the Jewish forefathers of the faith, and in a strange way, even to their rejection of Christ, because that has made it possible for us Gentiles to be included. And I believe we need to be on guard against thinking now we have an inside track on God, lest the same thing happen to us.

It’s a theme repeated throughout the Old and New Testament: those on the inside rebel, get hard hearts and reject the truth; those on the outside receive it gladly. Jesus told parable after parable about the invited guests and those at the front of the line being usurped by “outsiders” – latecomers if you will. Of course this is all a part of God’s long-range plan for both Jews and Gentiles to be saved, but I do believed there is something to becoming stodgy, smug and self-important in our faith.

It might be good for us to think of ourselves as outsiders – as uninvited guests who got in on the party only because the invited guests had other things to do. It might be good for us to identify more with prostitutes and sinners (“ragamuffins” according to Brennan Manning) than with the religious, lest we too become like the Scribes and Pharisees (“beware the leaven of the Pharisees” Matthew 16:6).

It might be good for us to be eternally grateful for the grace of God that has somehow found us when we are so undeserving. No background. No pedigree. We’re like a bunch of mutts who got picked up at the pound one day short of our doom by a generous master who bought up the whole place – adopted us all.

Why do I suggest we think like this? Because it is necessary to the Gospel of Welcome for us to offer the good news to other undeserving folks like us. If we ever think of ourselves as above anyone, then we are closing someone off to the gospel.

Stay an outsider. Stay a sinner (don’t sin, but see yourself as one). Stay grateful. Stay amazed that you got “in.” And stay close to the door, so you can welcome in other vagabonds and ruffians like yourself.

Like that grand lady still shining her light over those coming to America: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (Emma Lazarus, from her sonnet, “The New Colossus” now bronzed inside the Statue of Liberty.)

Lest we forget who we are.

~John Fischer

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: