It’s been a long while since I’ve been to an amusement park. I have to admit, I enjoy the rides and the shows, but I hate the lines. For some of the roller coasters, the line might be an hour long so you can have three minutes of thrills. I won’t even talk about how expensive the tickets are to get into those places! (Yeah, I’m cheap.) In recent years, some amusement parks have sought to help “line-haters” by selling special passes that let you bypass the long lines. These VIP passes, available for a price, allow you to skip the lines entering the park and to skip the lines at the more popular rides. For a small price, you can be one of the privileged.
I guess it’s a small price to pay for the status. It’s nice to have that recognition. People look at you enviously as you, and your entourage who have also bought those VIP passes, sweep past the masses waiting in line. Paul dealt with that concept of privilege as he continued his explanation to the Roman church. The privilege he dealt with was the crux of the division between Jews and Gentiles: Abraham as a spiritual father. In John 8 the Pharisees used that relationship to prove their “creds” in their argument with Jesus. The argument was that having Abraham as their father gave them special privileges in their relationship with God. Paul demonstrated that what made Abraham special was his faith, not the resulting circumcision and the eventual adherence to the Law. “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)
As Paul writes to the Romans, it appears that one of his concerns is that some in the church will seek to assume a position of privilege because of their birth. “I’m Jewish who believes in Jesus. Since Abraham is my father, I am one of the chosen people so I should be a leader.” Even if a Jewish believer didn’t act like that, it would be easy for Christians to show deference to such a believer. Paul’s argument continues his defense of the idea that all the ground at the foot of the cross is level. What makes someone a child of Abraham? Paul would tell you that before the sign of circumcision, Abraham had faith. The righteousness of Abraham was not found in the sign, but in the heart. The physical offspring of Abraham are fine, but it’s even more important to have the faith of Abraham and be one of his spiritual offspring. He is the father of us all, offspring by the law and by those who have his faith.
The whole argument may seem silly to those of us in the 21st Century, especially since Christianity and Judaism are now recognized as two separate religions. In our world, many people will attack followers of Christ by looking at their activities. “Oh, that’s not Christian of you,” might be used when you disagree with them or do something they don’t like. (It’s funny how often people attack followers of Christ like that when they’re following biblical truth.) It’s easy for followers of Christ to fall into that same trap and judge other believers based on their actions. While true faith in Christ will lead to godly behavior it doesn’t happen right away. Obviously, we should not participate in or condone sin. If the Bible speaks for something we should do it; if it speaks against something we shouldn’t do it. On those things that the Bible doesn’t speak to directly, we have principles from the Bible which can guide us. We can trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into understanding the Bible and to lead us towards making good decisions. But every believer is at a different stage in their walk with Christ. We may call out sinful actions by brothers and sisters, but we should never discount their faith. We need to love and forgive them.
Oh Lord, let my faith in You change my thoughts, attitudes, and deeds so that others see You in me.