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 Does God play favorites?

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howHelovesme



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PostSubject: Does God play favorites?   Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:55 am

Romans 2:11, "For God does not show favoritism." If this is so, why, in Genesis 4, does God choose Abel and his gift? "The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor." In addition, why are the Isrealites the Lord's chosen people if He does not show partiality? "Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation.'" Acts 10:34

I know these are tricky and deep questions, but I've always wondered.
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PastorChris
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PostSubject: Re: Does God play favorites?   Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:15 pm

howHelovesme wrote:
Romans 2:11, "For God does not show favoritism." If this is so, why, in Genesis 4, does God choose Abel and his gift? "The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor." In addition, why are the Isrealites the Lord's chosen people if He does not show partiality? "Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation.'" Acts 10:34

I know these are tricky and deep questions, but I've always wondered.

howHelovesme,

thanks for the question! It's great to see you engaged so deeply in Scripture and trying to make sense of it all. (by the way, if you ever are able to make sense of it all, come talk to me and tell me how to do so!) Wink

In the Romans passage you refer to, Paul is talking about how we are to live as Christians. In my Bible, it says "For God shows no partiality" for 2:11. But the point of the statement comes in the previous verse: "There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek." Here, Paul is not saying that God never chooses people to do certain tasks, he is saying that God treats all people in the same way when it comes to doing good or evil. Either you are doing something good and God will smile on you, or you are doing something evil and the results won't be pretty.

In Acts chapter 10, we see Peter picking up on this message. He is preaching a message to the early church, telling them to go and share the good news of Christianity with the Gentiles. (remember that Gentile is a fancy word meaning "not a Jew"). Christianity should not be limited to a certain group of people, but is open to everyone who desires to know God. In this way, God does not show favoritism.

In Genesis 4, we see the story of Cain and Abel. We aren't told much about why God liked Abel's gift (or offering), only that he did. This does not mean that God wasn't going to be available for Cain, though. In fact, we see the same God dealing here with Cain as we do in Acts and Romans. Cain did something evil (he killed Abel) and God was angry with him. And yet, God also showed grace when Cain later asked for it. God said "I will protect you and nobody shall touch you." God may have showed favoritism for Abel's offering earlier, but God clearly continues the covenantal relationship with Cain.

So, what did it mean for God to accept Abel's offering and not Cain's? One of my favorite commentaries is the Interpretation Bible Commentary. It offers the following insight:

"All through the Genesis narratives, Yahweh is there to disrupt, to create tensions, and to evoke the shadowy side of reality. Here the interpreter may pause to acknowledge that our lives are filled with disruptions, tensions, and shadows."

Perhaps God was simply looking to see what Cain would do in a tough situation. Obviously Cain didn't make very good choices!

The other part of your question deals with the Israelites being called "God's chosen people". This has caused a lot of problems over the ages, and is one of the reasons why Jesus got angry with the Jewish leaders in his time. Some of them were teaching that if you weren't Jewish you couldn't be saved. (Do we do the same today?) What God was trying to do, though, was to show that true salvation comes when we live faithfully in a community and love one another. God "chose" the Isrealites in the sense that God asked Abraham to live a certain way and to worship God in a certain way. God helped Abraham to pass on those values and beliefs and practices to his children and their children and their children. But being an Israelite wasn't limited to the children of Abraham or those that married Abraham's descendants. Instead, anyone who wanted to worship God in the way God intended was able to be come an Israelite. We see this with the story of Ruth - she was a Moabite (different religion) who married an Israelite. When her husband died, she had no obligation to remain Jewish. In fact, for all intense purposes, she was considered to Moabite after her Jewish husband died. However, she decided to convert to Judaism, telling her (now former) mother-in-law "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." It is a wonderful example of someone converting to Judaism in the Old Testament, and Ruth later became the great-grandmother to King David!

God does not show 'favoritism' when it comes to liking certain people. All are loved by God and welcomed into God's arms when they call on the name of the Lord. God has a special plan in mind for each of us, and so 'chooses' us to do certain things. But God's plan is for us all to live in a faithful community and worship the one who created us all.

Hope this helps!

Peace,
Pastor Chris
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