Random Blog Clay Feet: November 25, 2007
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

To Pursue or Not Pursue

What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." (Romans 9:30-33)

These statements, like many others in this chapter, produce some intense questions in my mind that I ask God to explain to me. I find that when I face my questions that want to arise out of my uneasiness instead of looking for quick pat canned answers that the results are much more enriching.

The surface reading of these verses seem to somewhat imply again that maybe God is arbitrary like so many claim Him to be based on their reading of this chapter. But what I am starting to see more clearly here is a good example of the difference between living from the heart or living focused on the externals in a left-brain religion. Even in my own experience I have noticed that many of the people who feel genuine and real to me (a spirit-perceived thing) are often not necessarily very religious. Of course I have grown up in a culture where that is immediately labeled as dangerous and suspicious, but I now realize that much of that thinking comes from a fear-based religion and is not in harmony with the Spirit of God's kingdom.

The real children of God, as Paul makes quite clear earlier in this chapter, are not defined by the group or family they belong to but by their internal relationship and response to the voice of God in their soul. And the external results of listening to those inner promptings will often look very different than the prescribed external performances that religious people demand to be seen in the life. Here Paul is once again stepping on the toes of prejudice of all religious people in stating openly that those who are found to have “righteousness” – whatever that is – are not necessarily those who appear to be the most religious. Because what we have been trained to view as correct external behavior and religious correctness is riddled with subtle deceptions that keep us from seeing people the way God sees them.

As I look at these verses some semantic questions come up as usual for me to explore. I notice that both descriptions here – the ones describing Gentiles and Jews – talk about pursuing. But the Gentiles do not pursue and yet they actually get results that the Jews, who do pursue, were working very hard to achieve but fail to enjoy. This is another good example of God's upside-down kingdom according to the way we view things. But in fact it is our perspective that is actually upside-down which makes us only think that God's ways are seemingly reversed. It is our own paradigms that have to be changed and our own assumptions and prejudices that need to be released before we can begin to enjoy the synchronization with God and His people that we were designed to enjoy.

Another question that arises again for me relates to the real definition of the word “righteousness”. This has been a lifelong question that refuses to be satisfied easily. There are far too many simplistic and confusing explanations out there about this word and I insist on keeping my mind open to understand more clearly what the Bible really means when it uses this word. It has been one of the most confusing and almost obscure words for me all of my life partly because, I suspect, it has been abused so badly and particularly because the living examples of people who supposedly demonstrated it in their lives produced such mixed messages to the right brain.

Looking at these verses with my formula-happy left brain (which is not always a counter-productive exercise) I notice that there are certain ingredients in both of these descriptions but that show up in different ways in each “equation”. There is the element of “pursuit”. Then there is the results of that pursuit, though the word is different for each which I find very significant. Maybe that is a description of the outcome of the formula. Then there is the elements of “righteousness” and “faith”. I notice that there is an extra ingredient in one of the equations – “law” and “works”. What that extra element seems to result in is the production of something called a “stumbling stone” which prevents them from fully grasping the very thing they are working so hard to get. By implication it is stated that they experience the emotion of “disappointment” as a result.

So how do all of these pieces fit together? Well, I am again out of time, but if you would like to comment or participate feel welcome to join me in my journey through Romans.

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