Is There Only One Chosen People?

Did God designate one chosen people? If so, why? My online friend Epi, a Jehovah’s Witness, and I continued to discuss that controversial idea.

He maintains the belief that there has been one truly divine teacher in the history of the world – Jesus Christ, one Holy Scripture – the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as translated by the Watchtower Society, and one Chosen people – Jews, Christians, and, now, Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I observed that the concept of a chosen people whom God exclusively fed, clothed, and educated (spiritually speaking) flies in the face of the actual teachings of Christ as revealed in the Gospels — specifically the Sermon on the Mount.

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But Epi was adamant: The Jews, Christians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are the chosen people, he said, and there can only be one prophet and one chosen people.

Ironically, this is exactly why the Pharisees rejected Christ. 

For them, there was only one prophet whom scripture documented as having seen the Face or Form of God — Moses. Yet here came Jesus of Nazareth, a humble carpenter, claiming that same relationship with Jehovah. Worse, he was interpreting and adding his own ideas to the divine teachings and teaching them to everyone — even (gasp) Samaritans! 

Christ never speaks of a chosen people. Instead, he makes it clear in the Sermon on the Mount (specifically Matthew 7) that God will supply spiritual food for all of His children, not give them things that will not nourish them (a stone instead of bread) or that would be harmful to them (a snake instead of a fish). In these same passages, he also tells his audience that they have the spiritual capacity to discern good from evil. 

So, I told Epi, who do I believe, the Jewish patriarchs or Christ? I’m going with Christ.

Epi said: The reason Jehovah chose the nation (that came) from Abraham, was because Abraham was the only one doing what was right in God’s eyes. Everyone else in the world was not. 

This introduces a deeper dilemma. What valid “reason” can God have for violating His own nature and His express spiritual teachings? 

After he reveals God’s nature as a more loving and perfect parent than any human, Christ speaks of how to tell truth from falsehood. The yardstick he uses is “You will know them by their fruits”. If this is true of human beings, how much more so must it be true of the One who gave that guidance? Are you prepared to believe that the fruit of Jehovah’s behavior is deceit? 

My conclusion? These seem the choices before us: 

  • God intentionally withheld guidance from huge swathes of humanity and engaged in behavior that would get a human parent arrested. How, then, are we to understand Christ’s statements about God’s essential qualities? 
  • God is the loving Parent Christ revealed Him to be, and human beings have got it wrong and are, to quote Christ, “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). We are building our understanding of faith not on the word of God, but on our own imperfect standards for behavior. 

Which is it? Those are the only two choices that I can see. Can you offer another? 

Please understand that I am not rejecting the Bible. I am rejecting a particular human interpretation of it. I am suggesting that if the words of Christ are true, as Baha’is believe them to be, then we humans have to understand the concept of “chosenness” (and a good many other things) in a very different way.

You say that these billions of souls who did not know Moses or Christ were suffered to live in spiritual darkness. They were ignorant of God’s will, not by choice, but simply because they weren’t living in the right place at the right time. Yet, instead of teaching them His will, God chose to punish them for their misfortune by turning His back on them for millennia. By that understanding, He even allowed counterfeit prophets to use His own teachings to mislead their prey, advocating the same devotion to God and the same love for their fellow beings that Moses and Jesus taught.

Does that seem right to you? Would a human parent treat an ignorant child in such a fashion, especially if the child asked for knowledge? Wouldn’t a loving parent give the child a teacher? 

RELATED: Are the Major Faiths Actually One Faith?

So again, I say — using Christ’s Word as the measure — if God is who Christ reveals Him to be, He would not leave those people without guidance. It would not be just or merciful, for one thing. But it would also contradict Christ’s revelation. 

I’d also ask what it means to be “chosen.” I think Christ sums it up concisely in Mark 2:17 when he tells the Pharisees: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Christ’s chosen were not the virtuous and learned; they were the uneducated, the poor, the spiritually sick, the proud, the materialistic. 

Look at history: Have you not noted that God’s messengers carry His light to the most needy — to those who live in the deepest darkness? It is in raising up the lowest of humanity that He proves the efficacy of His words. 

Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah and the center of his covenant, expresses this idea in a Baha’i prayer he revealed. He asks:

How can I succeed unless Thou assist me with the breath of the Holy Spirit, help me to triumph by the hosts of Thy glorious kingdom, and shower upon me Thy confirmations, which alone can change a gnat into an eagle, a drop of water into rivers and seas, and an atom into lights and suns?

I hope that the discussion with my Jehovah’s Witness friend Epi gave him a larger sense of what those lights and suns mean.

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