The election of Israel to be the people of God is a significant theme in the Old Testament. This special position of Israel has offended many people both in the ancient and modern world. In a world of "equal opportunity," people argue that the idea of election leads to violence because it in effect defines all other nations as the enemy. The elect and the non-elect are seen as antagonistic categories.
Xenophobia, the fear and often hatred of strangers, plagues many societies. Does the Bible have an answer to the problem or does it only describe it? Four aspects of the Old Testament are discussed: the covenant with Noah, the treatment of the stranger, intermarriage with Gentiles, and the prophets' view of the nations.
God refers to the church as a mystery. What is this mystery? The mystery is that from the beginning God intended to gather His church from all nations and tribes. He wanted His church to be international (a universal church), and not limited to the tribe of Israel. This mystery was made clear in Christ and forms the heart of mission work.