How do you feel about Israel and the Jewish people?
I don’t really have to ask you that question, do I?
You wouldn’t even be on this page if you didn’t love Israel. You wouldn’t pray for the peace of Jerusalem if you didn’t love the Jewish people. You wouldn’t give the way you give if you didn’t know in your heart that heaven is having an ongoing conversation with humanity… through Israel… through this Fellowship.
This Fellowship. This extraordinary ministry. How did we get here, you and I, to this Fellowship?
An Extraordinary Man
There was a man about forty years ago, an orthodox Jewish rabbi, who looked at the chasm, the division, the separation between Christians and Jews, two peoples who share so many beliefs, who embrace the same Scriptures. Yet there was such a history of animosity and hostility. And much of it was my fault, your fault, our fault… Christians’ fault. And he could have walked away from it. But not this rabbi.
He made a decision to start thinking different thoughts and saying different words and acting in a different way. He made a decision to bring unity, to start conversation, to sit down at the table together. But he knew he couldn’t do it alone. He started looking around and he found people who were willing to listen to him.
In his quest for new conversation, somebody loaned him a pen. Somebody gave him some paper. Somebody gave him a chair to sit in. He did, and he started writing about that history, that anguish, that brokenness, that animus that has existed historically between Jews and Christians. And he wondered, how do you make it all go away?
The answer, he found, is that you don’t. You can’t rewrite history, but you can write new pages. And that’s what this rabbi did. He wrote new pages.
Sometimes when he would write there would be question marks. Sometimes there would be exclamation points – emphatic moments, exasperated moments. Sometimes there would be commas, to pause and think and pray. But he kept writing, this extraordinary rabbi, Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory. And now, his daughter Yael is continuing this vital, important, prophetic work.
It Can Happen Here
Now other people have tried to steal the pen, to rewrite history, to author a future of violence and hostility and chaos and confusion.
For the past many days, we have watched and listened as 4,000 rockets were fired by Hamas, not only to destroy the Jewish people, but to hijack the Palestinians, as well.
But of all those rockets, 700 that were launched never made it across the border into Israel. 700 rockets blew up or landed in Gaza. Hatred will do that to you. It will blow up right in your face.
Now there’s a ceasefire. I’ll leave that up to other people to decide if that’s a good idea or a bad idea.
But what’s in my heart right now isn’t what’s happening in the Middle East. It’s what’s happening in Main Street, here in our own country. People violently attacking Jews, in the street, just for being Jewish.
Did you see the video of the rabbi who was attacked, without mercy? I don’t know that I’ll forget watching as he picked up his hat and laid it on his bloodied brow. What did you think when you saw it? How did you feel?
Did you hear the story from California, where in a restaurant, out of nowhere, so-called peaceful demonstrators violently attacked Jewish diners?
“In the Beginning …”
As Christians, we’re supposed to process this differently. We believe in the same God as the Jewish people. We appeal to the same Scriptures. And in the first book of this Bible that we share: “In the beginning God created” (Genesis 1:1).
How did He do it? How did He create? He didn’t use His hands to scoop up earth. He didn’t spit into it and call it an ocean. He didn’t groom the mountains with His fingertips. He didn’t ask the angels to do it for Him.
The Bible says that God spoke. God started a different conversation, and created by doing that. He said something… and created.
You and I have that ability. If tomorrow is created by the words I speak today, what does tomorrow look like?
We talk a lot in this ministry about being prophetic. We think differently, we speak differently, we live our lives in a different way.
And Israel means something different to us. We know where Israel came from. We know about Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. We know about Moses at Sinai, with a new nation. We know about David ruling as King, and Solomon building a Temple. We understand who Israel is.
As Christians, we understand something else. In our Scriptures, it says that “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). We believe that conversation was so important to God that He named Jesus “Word.”
The Importance of Our Words
Now, with this ceasefire, they’re going to lay down their weapons of war. But the weapons of words are powerful. What we create and what we destroy. How we bless and how we curse. How we embrace and how we resist. So much of it has to do with the words we say.
Has someone ever told a joke about a Jewish person around you? You ask yourself, what did I do or say or signal to them that it was okay?
I have to start thinking about my words. My words to myself. Conversations around me.
And we need to think about Israel and her people. Who are they? Why are they here? Why is there such violence against them? Where does it come from?
You may wonder why this matters. It matters because many of the people who despise Israel also despise you, despise me, despise us as Christians.
You’ve heard the words: “First they came for the Jews. I’m not Jewish, so I didn’t say anything. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Changing the Conversation
It’s not enough to think like Rabbi Eckstein thought. We have to say what he said and do what he did. We have to add new pages. We have to pick up the pen and write those words that change the conversation.
That’s what being prophetic is – it’s speaking something contrary to the contemporary atmosphere and culture. It’s speaking something that strengthens and encourages.
That’s what King David of Israel – the one people, the one country, the one capital of Jerusalem – might have been saying when he said, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so” (Psalm 107:2 KJV).
When we “say so,” we create a conversation and change the atmosphere. It won’t always be easy, but God has assigned Israel to our hearts, to our faith, to our lives. We don’t just think thoughts about Israel. We don’t just pray to God for the peace of Jerusalem. But we speak about Israel, about Jerusalem, about the Jewish people.
That’s who we are. We are a part of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
Shalom.Tags: Bishop Paul Lanier