The new Jew

Christians tend to read the New Testament as though we are followers of Jesus, lapping up teaching at his feet then going out to live it fully. All things considered, however, oughtn't we be identifying with the Pharisees and the Jews?

Western evangelicals tend to see ourselves a bit like a chosen people, a bit like the law followers, a bit like we've got it all together. And we sure like to point out how others aren't meeting the mark. (We're unaccountably shocked when those who don't profess a particular commitment to Jesus don't act like "good Christians" [there's so much sex and swearing in Hollywood movies!!]. Yet often we're so busy being self-righteous, we fail to be properly ashamed by the true righteousness lived out by others of those who don't profess the right commitment to Christ.

The following passage from Romans feels uncomfortably accurate if we change "Jew" to "Christian", and "Gentile" to "non-Christian".

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”--Romans 2:17-24

The characters most likely to be concerned with outward appearances, the right personal connections, and proper behaviour is the Pharisees in the Gospels, and the Judaizers in Acts and the epistles. Jesus condemned all that and went straight to the heart. He wasn't afraid to point out bad behaviour in anyone, but he did so redemptively, and on the basis of motivation, not laws. It's not that he preached a gospel of relativity, "if it feels good, do it." The higher standard he calls us to isn't easily codified in a set of rules and regulations. What is it then?

That's a journey of discovery...and I can't claim to be very far along the road yet.


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