This morning, I read Romans 11:1-10. Paul is in the midst of talking about the Israelites, God’s people. specifically, he’s talking about those that heard the “good news” but did not accept it for what it was/is. He then transitions in chapter 11 and asks if god has rejected his people. He pulls text from 1 Kings 19, when Elijah laments to God that he is the last one who is faithful to God. God tells him two things, 1) he’s not alone, there are 7,000 more people, and 2) there will always be a remnant of people who fear God. Now, like then, there is a remnant of belivers, but it is not one of works, but grace. This remnant is set apart from the others in this way…the others have had their spirits in a stupor, their eyes blinded and ears closed. The table that they have set for themselves is a snare and trap, a stumbling block, and a “retribution” for them. Translation: those who have willfully chosen to not be a part of this remnant have made their respective beds, and now, they must lie in them. So…who is who? Who is the remnant, and who is not?
In James 1, we read about “true religion”. The truly religious, the “remnant” keep a tight rein on their tongues, they look after the “fatherless and the widows” and they keep themselves “from being polluted by the world.” James even tells us specifically what these things look like in James 2.
- Regarding keeping a tight rein on the tongue, James says that we should not discriminate between the wealthy and the poor. he goes on to say that the moment we discriminate, we become “judges with evil thoughts”. Not that we “might” be guilty of judgment, but that we are judges.
- Regarding the fatherless and the widows, James says that the poor in the eyes of the world (whether materially or in spirit) have been given the gift of richness in faith. James then warns the believers to not insult the poor. After all, it is the wealthy who treat the believers poorly and slander God’s name.
- Finally, being polluted by the world. James writes that we are to love our neighbors as our selves and not to show favoritism, and that if we commit any single sin, we are guilty of violating all of them. The world breaks down sin into categories. Believers (the remnant) should have a proper understanding of how God works. If all sin is equal, for us to treat people otherwise is favoritism. James tells us what this lack of favoritism looks like. It looks like mercy. Mercy looks like Jesus.
We should ask ourselves if we, indeed, are in the remant. If we control our tongues, care for the fatherless and widow, and love without mercy, we are. If not, we are in a stupor, eyes blinded, and ears shut. And Paul has made one thing clear. The stupor, blindness and deafness are our own choosing. And we’ll remain there until we choose otherwise.