11 So I’m asking you: They haven’t stumbled so that they’ve fallen permanently, have they? Absolutely not! But salvation has come to the Gentiles by their failure, in order to make Israel jealous. 12 But if their failure brings riches to the world, and their defeat brings riches to the Gentiles, how much more will come from the completion of their number! 13 I’m speaking to you Gentiles. Considering that I’m an apostle to the Gentiles, I publicize my own ministry 14 in the hope that somehow I might make my own people jealous and save some of them. 15 If their rejection has brought about a close relationship between God and the world, how can their acceptance mean anything less than life from the dead?
16 But if part of a batch of dough is offered to God as holy, the whole batch of dough is holy too. If a root is holy, the branches will be holy too. 17 If some of the branches were broken off, and you were a wild olive branch, and you were grafted in among the other branches and shared the root that produces the rich oil of the olive tree, 18 then don’t brag like you’re better than the other branches. If you do brag, be careful: it’s not you that sustains the root, but it’s the root that sustains you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Fine. They were broken off because they weren’t faithful, but you stand only by your faithfulness [or faith]. So don’t think in a proud way; instead be afraid. 21 If God didn’t spare the natural branches, he won’t spare you either. 22 So look at God’s kindness and harshness. It’s harshness toward those who fell, but it’s God’s kindness for you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise, you could be cut off too. 23 And even those who were cut off will be grafted back in if they don’t continue to be unfaithful, because God is able to graft them in again. 24 If you were naturally part of a wild olive tree and you were cut off from it, and then, contrary to nature, you were grafted into the cultivated olive tree, won’t these natural branches stand an even better chance of being grafted back onto their own olive tree?
Paul first stated the idea that Israel had “stumbled” in Romans 9:33, with quotations from Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14. They had “stumbled,” of course, “over the gospel of a crucified Christ.”* But then, in verse 13 and onward, he returned to what he wanted to say to the Gentile Christians in Rome. He used the analogy of grafting a shoot from a wild olive tree into a cultivated tree, leaving both better off.
God of love, thank you for the roots of your saving work in the Hebrew people among whom Jesus was born. And thank you that your love is intense enough to hate destructive, damaging evil. Amen.
* Michael J. Gorman, study note on Romans 11:11-12 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 293 NT.
** William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Letter to the Romans (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, p. 150.
*** Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, Romans Part Two: Chapters 9-16 (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 56-57). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
When we are entering into relationship with someone, be it a new friend, a co-worker, a neighbor, whomever, the conversation typically starts with basic questions about who we are now and then often follow with questions about where we are from. Questions such as “Where are you from?” or “Where did you grow up?” or “Where did you go to school?” may seem innocuous enough. But questions that cause us to think about our roots can cut quite deep, as some of us come from roots of kindness and some of us from roots of harshness.
Often these roots shape how we think of God as well. As noted in the GPS discussion and said by scholar N.T. Wright, “Some people imagine God to be always severe…Other people sometimes imagine that God is simply kind and generous in a sense which would rule out his ever rebuking.” * For those of us who grew up in a home where harshness was more present, performance was epitomized, or perfection reigned, we may struggle to see and accept the grace God freely pours out. For those of us who grew up in a home where all wrong was swept under the rug, we may struggle to see God’s heart of righteousness and desire to strike down evil.
As someone who struggled for a long time to understand and accept God’s perfect love and grace, I strive to balance God’s kindness and harshness in my own spiritual journey, as well as in the ways I teach my daughter about God. I want Carolina to see her earthly parents and her Father in God as those who love her endlessly and without hesitation, but also as those who guide her and shape her in ways that raise her up in righteousness. I want her to be rooted in Christ, always.
* Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, Romans Part Two: Chapters 9-16 (The New Testament for Everyone) (pp. 56-57). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
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