Ishmael, Esau, and Boutros

I was just reviewing an article by Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod and came across this paragraph below, which sheds much light on the whole matter of election and non-election, important themes throughout Genesis and all of Scripture. That they remain important issues today is evident from last month’s meeting of the Synod of Middle East (Roman Catholic) bishops, where Archbishop Boutros declared: “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. There is no longer a chosen people–all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.” Wyschogrod’s words are far more in line with the truth of Scripture:

Surely non-election does not equal rejection. Ishmael and Esau, the sons of non-election, are suffused in the divine word with a compassion in some respects more powerful than the love of the sons of election. Is it not possible that those who love God so much that, even in their non-election, they submit with love and serenity to the destiny chosen for them by God, are very dear to him indeed? Not to be the favorite son of a human father is a painful experience, but the non-election of God is never a finality, only one way of being touched by the finger of God. If, in the election of Israel, there is also chastisement of sinful Israel, in the non-election of the nations there is also the father’s love for all his children. In the end of days, there will be a reconciliation of all the families of the earth without division. To foreshadow that day, the Jew must speak humbly of his election, the gentile with love of his non-election, both waiting together for the final redemption of creation. (Michael Wyschogrod, “Israel, the Church, and Election” in Abraham’s Promise: Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004], pp. 186-187.)

As a Jewish scholar, Wyschogrod is not dealing here with the election claimed by the Church, but it does point the way for Christians to understand Israel’s unchanging election, and more important, to embrace it.


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