One would suppose that the Apostle Paul died without regrets, knowing that he had done all he could to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of YHVH and bring multitudes into it. Then again, Paul was a fallible human being, just like the rest of us. That is why he wrote things like this:
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (I Timothy 1:15 NKJV)
Perhaps Paul’s chief regret was knowing that his actions had kept people out of the Kingdom. Not intentionally, mind you; Paul was zealous for God, just as he testified of his Jewish brethren (Romans 10:1-4). Yet his zeal in persecuting those who believed Yeshua of Nazareth to be Messiah most likely hardened the resistance of many to the message of redemption through that same Yeshua. Afterward, having embraced that message and taken it to the Gentiles, he did his best to help people understand the full truth: that salvation by grace through faith actually makes it possible to live by God’s established standard of righteousness given in Torah.
Tragically, the division that began in Paul’s day is still with us. Judaism and Christianity have taken on completely different identities. There are voices on both sides who realize that the two are not separate religions, or at least YHVH did not intend it to be so. Those voices are now calling for understanding and dialogue. It shouldn’t be that hard since Christians, Jews, and Messianic/Hebrew Roots believers all claim allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; all revere the same Scriptures; all hope for the same promises. Why, then, can’t we all get along?
Ken Rank provides one very important answer to that question. The beginning of the journey toward mutual respect and acceptance begins with humility and repentance (in Hebrew, teshuvah). All of us have more to repent for than we think, and certainly more than we care to admit. But what if our lack of willingness even to consider this question of repentance causes someone to miss coming into the Kingdom? Meditate on that as you read Ken’s letter to our Jewish brethren.
A Letter to the Jewish People (on teshuvah)
October 7, 2016
Originally published on United 2 Restore
Over the last decade or so, my family has been keeping the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days. We’re not Jewish, but we feel drawn to these days for our own reasons. In the process of observance and celebration, we consider ourselves blessed in many ways. As we annually cycle through the Appointed Times, we build upon those things we learned during the previous years. And, as each cycle comes around, I find my focus narrowing on reconciliation and restoration between and for all of the B’ney Yisrael.
Back in early September, as we began the final 40 days that lead to Yom Kippur, I began to see teshuvah in a completely different light. I made a commitment to reach out to those I knew I had wronged, and also, to those I believe I have been wronged by. This has been more than just another learning experience for me, it has been a humbling life lesson. I have stood before and asked forgiveness from those I know I have hurt. I have also stood before others in an attempt to find shalom between us, letting go of any memory that might have related to how poorly they might have treated me. Like I said, this has been a humbling and yet, somehow, oddly rewarding experience.
There is an aspect of teshuvah that I seem unable to satisfy at this time, and sadly, I might never satisfy this weight on my heart. That weight is found squarely on my inability to take the hurt of the Jewish people, a hurt caused by centuries of hostility at the hands of Christians, away. As a man loosely raised as a Christian, I now know that the Jewish people have, for the most part, a very unfavorable view of Christians, Christianity, and Jesus. And why not? Christians over the centuries have treated the Jewish people poorly. Starting early in the second century, various Christian leaders began to shape the paradigm of future Christians by writing about the Jews as if they were Christ killers, deplorable sinners, and a people out of God’s will and without purpose. As time progressed we see a growing lack of respect aimed at the Jewish people coupled with beatings, forced baptisms, and even death. When Hitler came into power, he claimed to be a Christian. Despite him being a poor reflection of the one he claimed to serve, the Jews should not be expected to have to discern who may or may not be reflecting the values of Christianity. Thus, from their perspective, if Hitler claimed to be a Christian, and I claim to be a Christian, then in their eyes, I am not much different than Hitler.
The truth is, I am unlike Hitler in many ways but I have no ability to undo the past. Not only do I lack that ability, I really can’t even make an adequate apology to the Jewish people for the wrongs that have been committed against them by those who have come before me. I can’t make right what others have made wrong, all I can do is take a stand for Israel, for the Jewish people, and attempt to reflect the true values and character of the God we both serve. Judah – your God is my God, and your people are my people. While I can’t undo the past, I can offer my respect and understanding and only hope, and pray, that one day this sentiment becomes mutual. And perhaps, as time progresses, others will come to a similar understanding and, in time, reach that same depth of teshuvah. When that happens, as a people, we’ll all taste an aspect of shalom that hasn’t been realized since Solomon.
Avinu Malkeinu, hear my prayer. I have, we all have, sinned before you. Have compassion upon us and our children. Our Father, our King! Return us in complete teshuvah before you. We ask you to bring shalom to chaos and union to areas of division. May a door of communication be opened between all who belong to you, our King. To you alone be the glory! Amen.