Sunday, September 23, 2012

Romans, Chapters 11 & 12: Love thine enemy, but not today

Chapter 11

So, has god rejected his people then? By no means! Remember when Elijah bitched that the Israelites had killed all the other prophets and were gunning for him, too? And god said he saved 7000 men from Baal worship? Well, now he's decided to save some number of the population, selected at random rather than through their good works. The rest he has hardened against Jesus, while at the same time punishing them for all eternity. Totally fair and just, that god. And why did he do this? Well, to teach the gentiles about grace, because they're proving easier to convert to this new religion than those argumentative, riot-prone Jews.

Paul informs us that he's saying this to the Gentiles in order to make the Jews jealous and to convince them to come over to his side. He also tells them they're just branches that have been grafted onto a tree, not the root, so be careful, because look what god did to the old branches.

But not to fear! This is all temporary, and one day the Jews will accept Jesus and Israel will be whole again. Until then, though, they're our enemies.

Chapter 12

Paul urges us to turn our minds and bodies over to god. Then he says some things that would be good advice if they were taken out of context, but given that they are written in the bible, they're worth the proverbial hill of beans. See chapter 11, for example.

Nonetheless: Judge yourself fairly, and remember that any organisation needs more indians than chiefs. Only use your talents in proportion to your faith. Love should be sincere, hate is evil. Keep hold of the good things. Be nice to other people. Work hard, be hopeful, but be patient in troubled times, keep praying. Be hospitable to strangers. Don't swear, rather, bless people. Be empathetic to others' feelings. Live harmoniously, striving to get to know people from other social classes. Don't be arrogant. Don't seek revenge,that's god's job, rather act honourably. If your enemy is suffering, give him food and drink. Don't be subsumed by evil, but by good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romans, Chapters 9 & 10: Go ahead and stay in bed eating ice cream today, it's clearly god's plan for you

Chapter 9

The author would cut himself off from Christ if only it would save his fellow Jews. He reminds us that not everyone in Israel is a Jew, since only the descendants of Abraham's son Isaac - the one god ordered him to sacrifice for no apparent reason - are Jews. The descendants of his other son, Ishmael, are not. And so it has gone for the past 2000 years or so. He informs us that god decided long before Jacob and Esau were born what their fates were, as he does for the rest of us. So that means god makes me a secular humanist? Weird.

So is god unjust then, for hating on a zygote and deciding it would have a bad outcome for no apparent reason? Not according to Paul, because he told Moses I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (v. 15). I don't see how that helps his case, because you can't change your fate. And again, I've never understood why that means I can't and shouldn't just goof off and eat potato chips all day, since if I did, that would clearly be what god wanted me to do. 

We're also reminded of how god used Pharaoh like a tissue. Someone points out that if god chooses your opinions, he can hardly fault you for them, can he? Paul's answer is to tell us to shut up and stop questioning god. According to him, bad people exist to show good people look even better. 

God didn't like Gentiles so much before, but now he's cool with them. Still, only a few of them will be saved, because the end is nigh, folks. 

Chapter 10

More on how Paul wishes the Israelites would just open their eyes and see the truth, just like every prophet who has ever come to Jerusalem. Since this new religion is significantly easier to follow than the old one, otherwise it won't attract many converts, a lot of the laws have to be dispatched, which Paul does with frightening alacrity, informing us that we don't have to fulfill Mosaic law in any way, because Jesus does all of it for us. Except the gays. We can ignore that bit. 

We're not supposed to speculate about who's going to heaven, which must have left people with very little to talk about. Rather, we're supposed to say that Jesus is the lord, and then we're saved. But what about the people who don't know about Jesus? Apparently, that's why they say How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (v. 15) I wouldn't know. I mostly shut the door as soon as I realise who they are. So did the Israelis understand? Yup. They just ignored it.