You may have seen the practice of “Rumspringa” sensationalized on TV. According to the shows, this is the period when Amish youth are trying to decide if they want to remain in the faith and join the church, or leave the community and go out on their own. While there are a few that do this, the official understanding of this time is that it’s the period of adolescence when young Amish people leave the care of childhood and begin the process of becoming adults. This is when courting begins among the youth as well. Sometimes there is rebellion. Sometimes that rebellion is tolerated, to a degree, and sometimes it isn’t. Ultimately, a large percentage of these youth accept the faith of their parents and join the church. The decision to join is completely voluntary. No one is forced or compelled to join. Many of those who sample the ways of the world end up returning to the faith.
While TV sensationalizes the alleged “trying the ways of the world” aspect of this period of time, the truth is that while it is a time of questioning and deciding, most Amish youth are given guidance during this time. The end result of most is that they understand the faith better and are willing to make a lifetime commitment to follow Christ in the ways of the Amish. Paul, in concluding this theological discussion about the Jews, or Israel, and Gentiles talks about our different ways to approach God. “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.” (Romans 11:30-31)
The whole discussion is complicated and Paul deals with questions that many ask today. Did God abandon the Jewish people because they couldn’t follow the law and won’t trust in Jesus? The argument Paul makes is dangerous: just as Gentiles were disobedient and received God’s mercy, so now the Israelites have become disobedient so that they might receive mercy – in part because they see the mercy God offered the Gentiles. Dare I say it this way? Is it like the children of Israel are going through their own version of “Rumspringa” where they will eventually have to decide if they want to keep trying, and failing, to follow the law or if they want to trust in the mercy and grace of God as shown through Jesus Christ? Paul would remind us that God never stopped considering the Jews His chosen people, but that the Jews had rejected His grace while trying to follow the law. His desire for His chosen people, Israel, and for all people is that they turn to Him in faith and trust Jesus so that they might establish their relationship with Him.
It is the same decision that the Gentiles had to make back then. It’s the same decision that non-Jews must make today. “Will I leave this life of disobedience to God and trust Jesus or will I continue to do things my way?” In the end, it doesn’t matter if you are Jew or Gentile: are you willing to give up your disobedience and receive the mercy of God or are you going to keep on living the way you’ve been living? The truth is that each day is a day of decision on this question, even if you have already accepted God’s grace in the past. Every day we have the choice to disobey and fall back into sin. Every day we have the choice to live by God’s grace or to live by the law. Today, I choose to live by God’s mercy and grace. I can’t be good on my own. I can’t follow the law the way I should. I can ask God for His mercy. I can ask God for His grace to see me through the day; He’s always given me His mercy and grace.
Lord, I have decided to follow You. So, please give me Your mercy when I fail you, which I will do. Please extend Your grace to me. Nothing I do makes me worthy, it’s only by your grace I can come to You.