So, this week Dr. Mike Evans said some horrible things about Naftali Bennett and the new Israeli government. He threatened to cut himself and all of his followers from Israel, a statement I am sure was painful for him to make. It was certainly painful to hear. Many Jews were deeply insulted and many Christians responded that their love of Israel was not dependent on any political reality. I had a slightly different reaction I would like to explain.
Conflict is the very basis of the Temple. King David was a man of war, albeit reluctantly so. He was a musician and shepherd backed into a corner. But because of this, he did not merit building the Temple which was the source and sustenance of life. King Solomon, whose name meant peace, built the Temple. But how did he make peace? King Solomon was the wisest man so he succeeded in making peace where others saw only war. It is difficult to make peace and you have to think things through. King David bought the threshing floor that was the basis for the Temple and made an altar, bringing the first sacrifices in Jerusalem so his experience of war literally set the stage for the Temple.
The basis for peace is the possibility of war. The basis for life is the certainty of death. Sacrifices, the shedding of blood, is what sustains the world. And the basis for friendship is the knowledge that we are different. The possibility of conflict makes us human. Choosing love makes us children of God.
Christians and Jews have a two millenia history of hatred, an intense hatred based in our irreconcilable differences in our love for the God of the Bible. But I have witnessed a literal miracle. This hatred that includes the Crusades, the Inquisition, Pogroms, the Holocaust, and everything in between, has been changed into a Christian love of Israel and the Jews. It is unprecedented and runs counter to all of huan history. It is quite simply a miracle, appearing precisely where I would never have looked. It is King David’s bloody hands setting aside his sword in order to build an altar at the threshing floor he had bought from two brothers who loved each other.
But, as I wrote, peace is far more complicated than war. My understanding is that Dr. Evans is a man of great accomplishments and great vision. My understanding is that he is also a Christian leader who has spent a lot of resources trying to convert Jews to Christianity, in the tradition of all those hated Christian efforts that established the history of relations between Jews and everyone else who read the Bible. It remains a point of contention.
Though Dr. Evans has made no secret of his mother being Jewish (which is code to religious Jews establishing Dr. Evans as a Jew), little has been said of this by others, Jewish or Christian. That means quite a bit to other Jews but it clearly means something very different to Dr. Evans. It may be that this episode is a mile-marker in his self-definition as a Jew. He will have to choose whether this brings him closer or whether it is the border to being permanently on the outside. Conflicts tend to make fence-sitting an impossibility.
But his being Jewish changes everything. When the Third Temple is built, Dr. Evans will leave all his “followers” behind and go where they cannot. Dr. Evans will enter the Temple with me. I would like to suggest to him a scenario of what he can do there.
But first I need to explain. I have a private vice; I love to apologize. When I first learned of the Temple service, I was fascinated by the sin offerings. Normally, when you think of your sins, you want to hide them and hide from God. But the Temple service turns your sins into a public ceremony. Aaron became the high priest after leading the Children of Israel in the horrific sin of the Golden Calf. He didn’t abandon Israel. He went down into the sin with us so that he could help us climb back out and do tshuvah, what Dr. Evans calls ‘repent.’
Dr. Evans embodies so much of the maelstrom of Christian-Jewish relations. It is a huge cross to bear (pun intended, but much more is intended as well). It seems that at first, he saw these relations as being based on Jews accepting Jesus. Then, as the miracle that is modern Israel appeared, he developed that vision into a pseudo-political/semi-prophetic vision of Christians loving Israel on a Biblical basis.
But the Temple is based on complete peace, a true brotherly love, the most difficult love of all. The love that makes you sit at a meal with the same brother who hurt you so deeply. This is the brother who can confront you about your sin, but doing so out of complete love. What I see in Dr. Evan’s statements is the slap my brother gave me when we were on the cusp of manhood. Of course, we hugged. Because we both loved our father. And each other.
What Dr. Evans did was truly horrible on many levels but it was not unforgivable. But forgiveness can only be given. It cannot be taken. I am hoping that Dr. Evans will do teshuva. If he does, I will be saving a place for him in the Third Temple where we can enter the courtyard as brothers. And if he allows, I will ask him to help me with my Jewish version of “He who is without sin…” by helping me to bring my sin offerings as well.