I wonder whether you feel uncomfortable about the idea in the Bible that God shows particular favour to Israel.? That God chose Israel and not other nations? Why does God seem to have a special role for Israel in the Torah which excludes others?
I want to suggest that the Bible shows us how God’s love for this world is not a universal love but a particular love that is universal in its expression to each and every different one of us. Let me see if I can explain this idea.
The idea of the universal is something we seem to hold important in our society. It avoids the danger of believing people who do not share our faith or indeed race or ideology do not share our humanity. This idea has been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history. Religion can sometimes be criticised for this … if we believe we are chosen and special ..then others aren’t!!.
We know Jesus teaches in his story of the Good Samaritan that our neighbour extends beyond our own self-identifying group. So why does God seem to treat the Jews with preferential treatment in the Bible. We cannot avoid it. There seems to be clear discrimination! And we have suggested that distinction is destructive .. it creates an us and a them .. so a particular love for the Jews could be seen as negative if we view universalism as an important outlook in overcoming conflict.
But perhaps the Bible has a more subtle message. Perhaps it is more about God’s love of all particularisms rather than universal love. Jesus wants to show us we are valuable to God because of our uniqueness and distinctiveness not our universal characteristics. Let us consider this in a bit more detail.
We might explain what I have said in the context of family love. The Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks offers us an example which challenges the idea of universal love like this … he says our love for our children is absolute … but it is not universal it is distinctive and based on the particular child. So we are Gods children similarly in a particular and not a universal sense. He knows and loves us in our uniqueness.
So in God’s kingdom difference is to be embraced and acknowledged. In a sense the particular is not to be overcome by the universal. God made and created the particular in all its wonderful diversity and would never want conformity. Our challenge is not to discriminate against that which is different but to value it.
What I am suggesting is that the Gospel invites all to share in the love God shows to Israel. It is through the particular love we see for Israel in the Bible that a revelation of God’s particular love for each of us is revealed. How could it be any different?
So we must retain our own distinctiveness in order to receive the same blessing as Israel. A universal God who creates and affirms diversity on earth. Particularism is part of God’s plan. God’s love is not a universal kind of love but a particular love for each and every different one of us.