The Remnant of Israel
11 1 Does this mean, then, that God is so fed up with Israel that he'll have nothing more to do with them? Hardly. Remember that I, the one writing these things, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham out of the tribe of Benjamin. You can't get much more Semitic than that! 2 So we're not talking about repudiation. God has been too long involved with Israel, has too much invested, to simply wash his hands of them. Do you remember that time Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and cried out in prayer? 3 God, they murdered your prophets, They trashed your altars; I'm the only one left and now they're after me! 4 And do you remember God's answer? I still have seven thousand who haven't quit, Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish. 5 It's the same today. There's a fiercely loyal minority still - not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. 6 They're holding on, not because of what they think they're going to get out of it, but because they're convinced of God's grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago. 7 And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn't succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result received his stamp of legitimacy. The "self-interest Israel" became thick-skinned toward God. 8 Moses and Isaiah both commented on this: Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways, God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears, Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors, and they're there to this day. 9 David was upset about the same thing: I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals, break a leg walking their self-serving ways. 10 I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors, get ulcers from playing at god.
The Salvation of the Gentiles
11 The next question is, "Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?" And the answer is a clear-cut no. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. But the next thing you know, the Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing. 12 Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God's kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming! 13 But I don't want to go on about them. It's you, the outsiders, that I'm concerned with now. Because my personal assignment is focused on the so-called outsiders, I make as much of this as I can 14 when I'm among my Israelite kin, the so-called insiders, hoping they'll realize what they're missing and want to get in on what God is doing. 15 If their falling out initiated this worldwide coming together, their recovery is going to set off something even better: mass homecoming! If the first thing the Jews did, even though it was wrong for them, turned out for your good, just think what's going to happen when they get it right! 16 Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there's bound to be some holy fruit. 17 Some of the tree's branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root 18 gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren't feeding the root; the root is feeding you. 19 It's certainly possible to say, "Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!" 20 Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you're on the tree is because your graft "took" when you believed, and because you're connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don't get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green. 21 If God didn't think twice about taking pruning shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you? He wouldn't give it a second thought. 22 Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God - ruthless with the deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don't presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, you're out of there. 23 And don't get to feeling superior to those pruned branches down on the ground. If they don't persist in remaining deadwood, they could very well get grafted back in. God can do that. He can perform miracle grafts. 24 Why, if he could graft you - branches cut from a tree out in the wild - into an orchard tree, he certainly isn't going to have any trouble grafting branches back into the tree they grew from in the first place. Just be glad you're in the tree, and hope for the best for the others.
The Restoration of Israel
25 I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what's going on and arrogantly assume that you're royalty and they're just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that's not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house. 26 Before it's all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written, A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion; he'll clean house in Jacob. 27 And this is my commitment to my people: removal of their sins. 28 From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God's enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God's overall purpose, they remain God's oldest friends. 29 God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty - never canceled, never rescinded. 30 There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. 31 Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. 32 In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.
33 Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It's way over our heads. We'll never figure it out. 34 Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? 35 Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? 36 Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.
Exhortations for Christian Living
12 1 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2 Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 3 I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. 4 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. 5 The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, 6 let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't. If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; 7 if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; 8 if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. 9 Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. 16 Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. 17 Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. 18 If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. 19 Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it." 20 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. 21 Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
13 1 Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it's God's order. So live responsibly as a citizen. 2 If you're irresponsible to the state, then you're irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. 3 Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you're trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. 4 the government working to your advantage. But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren't there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. 5 That's why you must live responsibly - not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live. 6 That's also why you pay taxes - so that an orderly way of life can be maintained.
7 Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders. 8 Don't run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. 9 The law code - don't sleep with another person's spouse, don't take someone's life, don't take what isn't yours, don't always be wanting what you don't have, and any other "don't" you can think of - finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. 10 You can't go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
11 But make sure that you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. 12 The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. 13 We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. 14 Get out of bed and get dressed! Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!