Once again in today’s reading, we see Paul cautioning Gentile Christians against feelings of superiority. Yes, he says, they have been included in God’s family while unbelieving Jews have not, but this is a moment to remember that they are saved by grace and not because of some merit of their own. This reminder of grace would be enough to preclude boasting, but Paul doesn’t stop there. In these verses, we see him place another consideration on the table: envy.
As Paul considers the inclusion of Gentiles and exclusion of Israel in God’s people, he holds out hope that Israelites might still come to accept Jesus as Messiah. How? They’ll see the faith of Gentile Christians and become envious of them. Not only does grace preclude boasting, but the very existence of Gentile Christians is meant to drive Israelites to faith!
Have you ever considered that your life of faith should be causing the non-believers in your life to envy you? The idea here is that we actually find the fullness of life that the gospel promises and live it out. How could non-Christians not notice such a life? At the very least it should make them curious. Ideally, it will make them envious – so envious that they come to faith themselves!
As we Christians interact with the unbelieving world around us, we need to remember (1) that we are saved by grace, which means we are not superior to non-Christians, and (2) that our lives are a witness to the world. Notice what is happening here. Rather than holding ourselves aloof from the world, we identify with the world’s need for the gospel and live as witnesses to the goodness of life with God. What a difference from the way we sometimes approach the world! Often, we view ourselves as culture warriors rather than winsome witnesses. Don’t get me wrong, Christians have beliefs and morals that we stand by. At the same time, we aren’t meant to beat people over the head with our superior beliefs. Instead, we are meant to invite them to join us in the better way of faith in Jesus.