God created us with free will when He fashioned Adam and Eve in our original ancestry. That means He is not a Heavenly Dictator. Instead, He gives us the right to choose our direction in life. Unfortunately, we human beings often fail to recognize the built-in rewards of free will and free choice.
People who see things only their way, not G-d’s way, challenge others’ right to choose. Arrogant, self-centered thinking has led to wars and chaos. It has divided friends and families, split churches, and shredded the very fabric which has crafted civil society. Often, unpleasant feelings and even hatred are the end result. Very seldom does forcing one’s own viewpoint lead to an acceptable compromise much less a successful conclusion. This is true in relationships and in our spiritual connections with others.
Within Christian – Jewish relationships, our foundation must be based upon trust that allows for choice, rather than a hardened “thou shalt.” Historically, our Christian beliefs, attitudes, and actions toward the Jewish people have been tainted by the deadly germ of anti-Semitism.
Throughout the centuries, those who claimed the name of Christ perpetrated many atrocities against the Jewish people. This means that the “Good News” for Christians is not necessarily such good news for the Jewish community. During Jesus’ time on earth, Jews considered Christianity as a heretical sect of Judaism. Consequently, hatred and animosity developed between those who identified as Christians and those who identified as Jews. Today, Christianity is recognized by the Jews as a religion completely separate from the Jewish faith.
And too often, Christians do not recognize Judaism as the birthplace of our faith!
The Christian community has a long history of forcing our faith on others. Rather than sharing openly and honestly from a heart truly full of genuine love and compassion, our theme can echo condemnation or threats of burning in hell for eternity. Oftentimes well-intentioned Christians mistakenly use back-door attempts to gain trust and missionize the Jewish community. When evangelistic efforts are refused, Christians can become offended, “shake the dust off our feet,” and move on. This is a wrong attitude.
The only way anyone can make an educated choice is to have all the facts. I long for the day when Christians and Jews sit down and reason together because iron sharpens iron. The Jewish faith is the root of Christianity, not the other way around. Christians are the branches. The Jews are the root.
Zechariah 8:23 (NIV) reminds us, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
We can learn so much from each another. However, the mutually beneficial path ahead requires sincerity, genuine love, respect, and recalling that G-d has made all of us with free will. He did not make us slaves. It all boils down to free choice.
If an environment of trust is ever possible between Christians and Jews, it is essential that Christians recognize and respect that others have the freedom and right to choose. I once heard about someone that said to their Christian acquaintance, “Oh! I did not know you are a Christian!” Well, how sad is that? That Christian must have hidden their light under a bushel.
Traveling down the road to build relationships between Christian and Jewish communities, we must allow our “lights to shine.” Given the sad and silent history of German Christians turning their backs on their Jewish neighbors while Hitler horrendously conducted his mass murders, we must reverse apathy into action. Truly it is better to demonstrate the Christian faith because actions do, indeed, speak louder than words. Show me. Don’t tell me.
Earl Cox is an international broadcaster and journalist who has served in senior level positions with four US presidents. Due to his outspoken support for Israel, he has been recognized by Prime Minister Netanyahu as a Good Will Ambassador from Israel to the Jewish and Christian communities around the world and named the Voice of Israel to America by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.