Are you the jealous type? I guess with me, it all depends. I am jealous of my time. I am jealous of my schedule. But other than that, I can’t say I really struggle with jealousy.
Oh wait, if I’m honest, I do have to admit I do get jealous when someone is being recognized for their work and they forget to mention me! That’s so embarrassing to admit. But I do get a little jealous when someone’s efforts are praised and it “seems” that my efforts are ignored. Ever felt that way? Yeah, I know, I’m the only one!
Look at our lesson today in Romans 10:11-21; 11:1-2:
BRETHREN, the scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
I love how St. Paul puts all of this in perspective for us today. He insists there is “no distinction” between Jews and Greeks. And he insists that this is because “everyone” (I guess that includes me and you) who calls out to God for salvation, gets it!
But there are some real ramifications to all this equality! If there really is no group or tribe that is “special” then that means I am never allowed to treat anyone as inferior to me because they aren’t part of our “group.” If God really is going to save everyone who “calls on the name of the Lord” then St. Paul insists this means I HAVE TO help them know they need and can call on the name of the Lord!
So Paul wants these Romans, and us, to know that we participate in this destruction of privilege when we actively assume everyone around us needs to know the message of God’s love for everyone and that they can call on the name of the Lord just like we did! And they get to be a part of the Family of God just like us! Paul even goes so far as to tell the Jewish people in his audience that God has already promised to stir up some jealously in their hearts when they watch as the “undesirables” get to be part of God’s family along with them! Paul warns these folks that just because they got a spiritual head start on everybody else doesn’t mean God likes them more than anybody else! It just means they have no excuse for neglecting the head start.
But, we humans are so predictable! Of course we are going to take our gifts for granted. So, the Lord gives the gifts he gave them to another tribe that wouldn’t take them for granted; that would share them with others and not keep this treasure of Faith to themselves.
Today, what if you don’t feel a twinge of jealousy when you see someone else really embrace the Faith you’ve taken for granted? Doesn’t that make you nervous? Perhaps you really have taken your faith for granted so long, you really don’t possess the faith anymore! Oh no! Don’t let this sad state of affairs continue! During this Winter Lent, become Orthodox on Purpose and tell others to join you!
P.S. Lord Jesus Christ, please so draw me to You and Your Eternal Life that I never take for granted this beautiful Faith that makes me like You! Help me to so treasure this beautiful gift of the Church that I live everyday in the bright Light of this new life and so love my neighbor that I share this Faith with all around me. Grant me the strength to keep this Winter Lent well. Amen.