Constructive Envy

I have shown that special tactics are required to help those who persist in stubborn unbelief.  The stubborn may have various reasons for rejecting the good news that Jesus Christ is the savior of all mankind.  Foremost among them is the spiritual pride of thinking that we are PART of a supposed chosen subset forgiven by God, such as the Jews.  Or equally crummy, we may imagine that we provided PART of the condition to be eternally loved by God, just like pagan religions.  Since pride of this nature is bad news, when the stubborn unbelief persists, even further special tactics may be employed.

Paul explains another special tactic in Romans 11:13-15 (WEB),

13) For I speak to you who are Gentiles. Since then as I am an apostle to Gentiles, I glorify my ministry; 14) if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh, and may save some of them. 15) For if the rejection of them is the reconciling of the world, what would their acceptance be, but life from the dead?

Acts 22:1-22 (WEB) also provides an excellent demonstration of this tactic by Paul,

1) "Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense which I now make to you."  2) When they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they were even more quiet. He said, 3) "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict tradition of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as you all are today. 4) I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5) As also the high priest and all the council of the elders testify, from whom also I received letters to the brothers, and traveled to Damascus to bring them also who were there to Jerusalem in bonds to be punished.

6) As I made my journey, and came close to Damascus, about noon, suddenly a great light shone around me from the sky. 7) I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'

8) I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?'

He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.'

9) "Those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they didn’t understand the voice of him who spoke to me. 10) I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?'

"The Lord said to me, 'Arise, and go into Damascus. There you will be told about all things which are appointed for you to do.' 11) When I couldn’t see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.

12) "One Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews who lived in Damascus, 13) came to me, and standing by me said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' In that very hour I looked up at him. 14) He said, 'The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. 15) For you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16) Now why do you wait? Arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'

17) "When I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the temple, I fell into a trance, 18) and saw him saying to me, 'Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not receive testimony concerning me from you.' 19) I said, 'Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue those who believed in you. 20) When the blood of Stephen, your witness, was shed, I also was standing by, consenting to his death, and guarding the cloaks of those who killed him.' 

21) "He said to me, 'Depart, for I will send you out far from here to the Gentiles.' " 

22) They listened to him until he said that; then they lifted up their voice and said, "Rid the earth of this fellow, for he isn’t fit to live!"

Paul -- actually the Holy Spirit through Paul -- was willing to make constructive use of envy to confront the spiritual pride of the Jews who rejected Jesus as their savior and the savior of both Jew and Gentile.  The results as you see were explosive.  The Jews hated the thought that both the Jews and the Gentiles were equally needy of grace.  The Jews thought God's blessing was focused only on them and limited to them unless the Gentiles jumped through the hoop.  However, Paul crossed the line in reaching out to both Jews and Gentiles with the good news.  Though it may appear like Paul is giving up on the Jews, really he is playing his last, but most powerful card through the constructive use of envy.

Paul was willing to risk conflict for the greater good of helping at least some stubborn unbelievers appreciate the foolishness of their unbelief.

Paul always makes a point of giving the Jews ample opportunity to change their mind and acknowledge Jesus as Messiah.  In fact Paul taught that the Jews ought to even have the first opportunity to hear the gospel.  Romans 1:16-17 (WEB) says, 

16) For I am not ashamed of the Good News of Christ, because it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek. 17) For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, "But the righteous shall live by faith."

However, if stubborn unbelief continued, Paul became a burr under their saddle to get things kicking.  You may have noticed that this Biblical strategy is strangely similar to the winning tactic employed by the Wright brothers.  When the U.S. government rejected flight, the Wright brothers turned to Europe.  Then the U.S. woke up.

Now let's move on to my concluding thoughts.