I’m telling you the truth
By Charles Qualls
Have you ever walked up on a conversation and gotten the feeling you have entered about halfway through something that you’ll never completely understand? Your friends have seen you, so now you walk closer. Except that as you get there, you wish you hadn’t? Because what you hear is painful. The person who is talking is upset. You don’t need any drama, and whatever is going on, whatever you’ve walked up on, you don’t want any part of.
That’s the feeling our text today in Romans 9: 1-5 can give us. The Apostle Paul is wound up by the time we get to this week’s text. He is so sad that in the Greek he uses the same word twice. He says “sorrow … sorrow” to emphasize just how bummed out he truly is. At first, we don’t know why.
We can feel like we ought to flip the page back into chapter eight because maybe we missed something. That wouldn’t hurt. I don’t know about you, but I have heard people observe, “If someone says, ‘I’m telling you the truth here,’ then I assume the person is confessing that they lie a good bit. But now, they’re going to tell me the truth about this one thing.” For me, that’s a bit of an over-reaction. I get where they’re coming from though.
Paul says that very thing in our text today. “Hey, I’m telling you the truth.” Well, what truth is Paul referencing here? One person has said, “It’s as though some of his family have excused themselves from the dinner table, and he will give up the most precious thing he has in order to get them back.” His own people, Israel, have rejected Jesus Christ. He is pointing out his deep sorrow. Then, he says that he wishes he himself could substitute for them, being distanced from God in Jesus Christ.
If your reaction to all of this is to break off into the complex question of whether Jews will go to heaven, I would kindly ask you to rejoin us here. If we took the glance backward into chapter eight that I mentioned at the beginning, this is what we would hear. Just before today’s text begins with verse 1, here is how the previous chapter closed. “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”
Now, you’re going to have questions about this that I can’t answer. So, let’s keep our eye on the ball for things that maybe I can shed a little more light on. Because my takeaway for us is that grace in Christ puts a fierce hold on us, too. I believe that I cannot make God un-love me. That’s good news, especially in trying times.
Maybe for you or for me, our situation isn’t that we have outright rejected the choice to believe through Jesus Christ. Maybe we’ve declared him our Lord. But maybe our living doesn’t exactly line up with what we’ve been professing. Maybe we’ve gotten into the sloppy habit of setting our faith aside for social reasons, business decisions, cultural or ethical issues. Maybe we’ve gotten into the habit of relegating our faith to being a Sunday morning-only matter, leaving ourselves to live more conveniently during “our” schedules the rest of the week.
Jennifer had the world by the tail. She was pretty, smart and her parents gave her every opportunity. She was raised in the church. She made her decision for faith, but then college gave her some opportunities that she should have passed up. She didn’t. She knew better. Eventually, she brought her guilty soul back Godward as a young adult. It took her a long time to own that God could still love her.
I think the Bible makes pretty clear that God gets impatient with us. Upset even at times. For us, and for now though, suffice Paul’s truth to be that one bad moment, one bad choice or even one long season of genuine evil may not be enough to cause God not to love us. Isn’t that encouraging news? I sure hope it is. I don’t know about you, but I need all of that kind of news I can get.
THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.