Much of what Paul wrote in the first ten chapters of his letter to the Christians in Rome concerned God’s love and purposes for the Jewish people. He rejoiced in God’s special love for the people of Israel in their origins, history, and religious and social life. He then affirmed the primacy and singularity of Jesus as the culmination of all that God had done in and for the people of Israel.
Additionally, Paul proclaimed, God in Jesus uniquely, decisively, and fully extended his saving love and purposes beyond the Jewish people to other peoples (i.e., to Gentiles). Jesus is the focal point – past, present, and future – of God’s actions on behalf of the entire world. In Jesus, God comes to all with saving love beyond human reckoning. In Jesus, God transforms any and all who give their lives to him. This is true for Jewish people as for any people.
Many early Christians wrestled with what this means for Jewish people who reject Jesus as God’s personal, culminating, focal point for their history and salvation. Paul did not just wrestle with it. He agonized over it.
Paul could not be blasé about the question. He could not be indifferent because (a) he knew Jesus to be decisive for history and salvation; (b) he loved Jesus passionately and desired others to know what he found so loveable; and (c) he loved his fellow Jews deeply. So Paul prayed fervently for his fellow Jews. He told them about Jesus whenever he had opportunity – and he went out of his way to have opportunity! And he trusted God fully for them.
May this be a model for us! May we love Jesus so much that we pray longingly and persistently for others to know him, perhaps especially (though not exclusively) those close to our hearts and histories. By word and deed, may we share our love for Jesus with the world around us – with family, friend, neighbor, and stranger. And may we trust God fully for them. For we can trust God, who is loving and faithful beyond human measure. This is the rock-solid foundation of Paul’s trust in God’s purposes for Gentiles and Jews, however bleak circumstances may appear. Can we ourselves do any less than trust the God who gave his very son, Jesus, for us and for all?