This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.
Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue. Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it. Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.
My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries. The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This journey is beset with many openings for offense. Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended. I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.
The Strange Career of Saul of Tarsus
Would it be a great surprise to learn that people started lying about the Apostle Paul almost as soon as he became a believer in Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus)? The story of his dramatic change on the road to Damascus is in Acts 9. It is a tale that should be familiar to all Christians. This man, Saul of Tarsus, star pupil of the sage Gamaliel, had made a name for himself by persecuting believers in Yeshua even to the point of death. His mission in Damascus was to continue the work of hunting down these people and eliminating the threat they posed to the established religious and political order.
This is the third in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.
The Commonwealth and the Symbol of Godly Marriage.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Yeshua says that in the Kingdom of Heaven He will declare that those who practice lawlessness, or Torahlessness, must depart from Him. That is a sobering message, but consider it from another perspective. God went through every conceivable obstacle to win his people back to Himself, even when we were not willing to acknowledge him. The clearest picture we have of this is in marriage. Here is what God said regarding marriage and divorce:
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 24:1-4, NKJV, emphasis added) Please click here to continue reading
This is the second in a three part series that addresses the implications of Christian support for Israel.
Common Ground and Uncomfortable Differences
In defining the Commonwealth of Israel, let me begin be reviewing the things Christians and Jews have in common:
- We all believe in the One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- We all believe that God has given His Holy Word to us so that we may know Him and have instructions on how to live.
- We all believe that God will send his Messiah (Christ as the title appears in Greek) to teach us about himself and show the way to connect with God just as our ancestors Adam and Eve connected with him in the days before our unhindered relationship with God was broken.
- We all believe that something has separated us from God, or at least prevents us from achieving our full created potential. Christians call this original sin. It is hard to generalize the various Jewish positions on this question. Sin, when it factors into Jewish belief (Orthodox, Reformed, or Conservative), is defined much the same way that Christians define it as disobedience to God, or even as rebellion against God. The result is the same: separation from the Creator and inability to achieve his intent for humanity.