I have a blended family. My husband has a child from a previous relationship whom we’ve raised together for the past ten years, and we have three children of our own. God used my personal family situation to teach me a lesson this year about the Family of God.
But first some history…
You see, in many Christian circles there is an understanding that there are two sets of rules for the people of God…one for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. And this is what was taught to me, sort of, indirectly. For example, I’ve asked in the past why we didn’t keep the Sabbath or the Passover, and I was told because these were Jewish days. As Christians we go to church on Sunday and celebrate Easter.
Although I was confused about a great many things, I simply accepted that answer…until this past year, that is.
This is what I used to think….
JEW vs. GENTILE ==> MESSIANICS vs. CHRISTIANS
If a Jew accepts Jesus as the Messiah, he becomes what’s known as a Messianic Jew. If a Gentile accepts Jesus, he becomes a Christian. Now in some circles, the Messianic Jew would become a Christian and completely abandon their Jewish way of life, but in others they keep celebrating the Sabbath and the Passover along with the rest of the OT law and consider themselves a Messianic Jew.
I always wondered why they would be expected to keep things like the Sabbath and the Passover after accepting Jesus as the Messiah, yet Gentiles who accept Jesus are not expected to even consider keeping the Sabbath and the Passover…they go directly to the “Christian” holidays.
What happened before Jesus came to the earth?
There was the Sabbath and the Passover. There were native-born Israelites and foreignors/aliens among them. If the foreignor wanted to accept the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob as their God, there was a provision for them to join with His people. They joined by faith and consequently obeyed God’s commands. They would start keeping the Sabbath and the Passover (participation in the Passover requires circumcision), along with the other holy days.
Now Jesus comes along. The Jews (referred to as “natural branches” in Romans 11:17-24) who believed Jesus was the Messiah remained in belief (ie James, John, Peter) . Those who didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah were broken off. If they came to believe Jesus was the Messiah some time later (ie. Paul), then they were grafted back in. There were so many Jews that were being broken off in disbelief, Paul turned to preach to the Gentiles. The Gentiles (referred to as “wild branches” in the same passage) started turning to God and became grafted in…but grafted into what? The Christian answer that I’ve always heard was “the church”.
But wait a minute, if the tree that the Jews (natural branches) and Gentiles (wild branches) are being grafted into is considered the church, was the church in existence before Jesus came…because there were natural branches that were never cut off in disbelief (remember James, John & Peter)?
What about the “remnant chosen by grace” in Romans 11:5?
What was in existence before Jesus came that Paul says “will all be saved” in Romans 11:26?
*Ding!* *Ding!* *Ding!* — ISRAEL!
But I thought that Israel meant the Jews, and that all the Jews will eventually be saved…after they go through the tribulation and recognize that Jesus truly was the Messiah. But it’s “the church” who will be raptured out of this mess before all the real trouble hits.
The millennial reign is for the Jews that figure out Jesus is the promised one…you know, the 144,000 of them from the 12 tribes of Israel with the seal on their heads in Revelation 7. Then, after the devil is cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20) and the great white throne judgment, we’ll all go to heaven with streets of gold and pearly gates (Rev. 21).
Yeah, that’s how I explained two sets of rules. The Jews were under the old covenant and were expected to still keep the law, whereas the Gentiles were under a new covenant and the law was put away (save for a few things mentioned in Acts 15). The Jews were a chosen people, and we, Gentiles (aka Christians) were the children of promise.
Paul spoke of a jealousy that would arise between the Jew and the Gentile (Romans 11:14) and my understanding was that was because the Gentile had all this freedom from the law, whereas the Jew was still trying to earn their way into heaven with obeying the law.
But then I thought, we as children of the promise get the blessings but not the responsibilities of obedience? That didn’t seem fair.
Boy, oh, boy. Was I ever confused about all of this. Instead of allowing myself to really walk through all of this in my mind, I had always pushed it aside and kept going along with this teaching (or the lack of clear teaching). That is, until this year.
ENTER: MY OBJECT LESSON
I had been experiencing some real challenges in my blended family the past few years. Much of my stress stemmed from my relationship with my stepson. I found myself saying to him, “you think you have some special set of rules?” A LOT because he kept disobeying the house rules no matter how much grace was extended to him (keep in mind, he’s a teenager). And then the notion would arise every once in a while that he was treated “differently”…or that he didn’t really belong. I was struggling to figure out how I could get us all to blend better as a family.
Well, this is where the LORD started teaching me my lesson on the family of God.
We, the Wigals, are a blended family, and there is one set of house rules that all are expected to obey. There are allowances made for different circumstances (ie age/maturity levels), but for the most part the same rules/benefits apply to all. I, as the parent love all of the children. There is no favoritism (ideally speaking). I want a personal relationship with each one of the kids, and I want them all to get along with each other. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Then I started to think about my Heavenly Father and his children: the Jews and the Christians. How can he have two sets of rules: one for the natural born children and one for the adopted ones? Wouldn’t that cause disunity? Wouldn’t that show favoritism? Where’s the justice in that? Where’s the unconditional love?
Think about it…
What kind of a parent would instruct his/her natural born children on eating healthy and practicing good hygeine, but then tell the adopted one it’s okay to have a steady diet of junk food and neglect bathing and personal grooming. It would appear that the parent was showing favoritism…taking better care of the natural born children while neglecting the same care for the adopted child.
What would the natural born children think if they had to eat their vegetables and brush their teeth everyday when their adopted brother didn’t. Would that cause jealousy or a sense of injustice?
It appears from the adopted one’s perspective that he’s got the best end of the bargain…not having to live by the same rules…FREEDOM. But lets alter the scenario a little bit.
Suppose this wasn’t about doing what kids typically don’t like to do. Instead, it was about spending quality/quantity time with the children, having parties and going on vacation?
What kind of a parent would set a date to spend one whole day with his/her natural born children every week, but not for the adopted one? The adopted one was free to call on him/her whenever he wanted (in fact he did, so he could develop a relationship with the parent and his fellow adopted children), but the special date set was specifically for the natural born children. Again, it would appear like favoritism on the part of the parent.
What would the natural born children think? Perhaps they’d think they were better somehow or that the parent cared more about them than the adopted one.
What would the adopted one think? Perhaps that he’s not really part of the family…that he’s an outsider. Or maybe he’d just see himself as second fiddle. Or…that he was special because he made his own special day of the week.
This is what I see two sets of rules lends itself to in the family of God.
Two sets of rules demonstrates God is a respector of persons, showing favoritism to the Jew. At first glance, when it comes to the disciplinary rules, it appears that the gentile has the better deal…freedom. But then, when it comes to a relationship with the Father, the Jews get all the attention. The Jews are the chosen ones. It’s clear to me why this would lead to sibling rivalry.
So I started re-thinking this whole “two sets of rules” concept. What if there really is only one set of rules, and it’s the set that was given in the beginning of the book? Well, let me just say the answer to that has totally rocked my world.