Lesson 4: The Great Divide
I believe that collectively, we Christians are making a great mistake in the way we approach the great divide that separates us as Christians and Jews: the issue of Jesus/Yeshua being the Messiah.
Before revealing that mistake, let me stress that the foregoing comment is speaking collectively to Christians.
What any one Christian does on any given day — how you obey the command of Jesus to “follow me” — is ultimately between you and God. Jesus/Yeshua himself tells us to “judge not that we be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). As I wrote two columns ago, I will strive not to speak evil about you, and I hope you will do the same for me. As written last time, my goal is also to be unoffendable in your presence, even if I disagree with what you are doing, even if I argue against the approach you are taking with the Jews.
With that said, let us shift gears entirely to a personal story.
My wife and I spent seven years of our lives working in Christian marriage ministry. This idea was actually not originally my idea, but hers. Something was stirring inside of her that there was more to our marriage than what we were experiencing.
I on the other hand was pretty satisfied. My thinking went like this: I am committed to her, and she is committed to me. I loved my wife and she loved me. Both her parents and mine were in stable, loving relationships in their marriages. It seemed that they had laid a pretty good foundation for us. So what else was there?
We went to an information session to learn more about a certain kind of marriage course called Married for Life, and heard some couples talking about what they had gained from going through this course. My wife eagerly wanted us to join a course. I resisted! For me, I envisioned this course was going to be five to seven couples sitting around a living room talking about what was wrong with their marriages. Even worse, the last thing I wanted to hear was my wife revealing my personal faults to a bunch of strangers!
Fast-forward a few years.
We had taken the course now several times and were now so enriched by it and appreciative of it, that we had become leaders ourselves. We were part of a community of leaders and felt loved and accepted as individuals, as a couple, and had experienced the joy of seeing marriages get saved, or enriched greatly, and saw amazing miracles of healing and growth happening in the lives of couples around our city. The course has stood the test of time, being used for decades, and has been used in America and in scores of countries around the world.
Why am I telling this story? It is to reveal to you a perspective — not the perspective we had at the beginning, but a perspective into which we grew.
Here we are, leaders of a marriage class that is about to start in our home. The door opens and in walks a couple. We greet them and invite them to sit down on a couch in our living room. They are the first to arrive for the class. They look at us a bit nervously, and we look back at them, smiling and trying to make them feel at ease.
The point is that we know something. We know something that they don’t know. And what we know is so universal and applicable, that it really doesn’t matter how good their marriage is, or what their background is, or what church they might (or might not) attend. What we know without any doubt is that they have a preconceived idea:
- She thinks their marriage can improve if he will change.
- He thinks their marriage can improve if she will change.
It is human nature, is it not? When we think about the places of pain in our marriage, do we not think first about the pain we feel from our spouse? We wish for them to change in the way that they treat us. Everyone has such desires, and those desires are not inherently wrong.
But as we continue speaking with the couple we also know something else. We know what solution is going to be proposed to them by the Married for Life course — the same solution that was proposed to us when we went through the course the very first time.
As teachers, we know that our job in teaching this course will only be complete when we have successfully reframed their entire perspective of their marriage from horizontal to vertical.
The makings of a great marriage happens when each spouse goes vertical with God, to deepen their own relationship with God, but at the same time chooses to focus their attention in the marriage on being a better husband to their wife, or a better wife to their husband.
During our time in marriage ministry we have learned a few expressions that often help crystalize some of these ideas in the couples. For instance we teach that:
- Your spouse is not your enemy!
This means that in the eyes of God, He sees your marriage as a single unit. Our real enemy is the evil inclination within us. Our real enemy is Satan that desires to destroy this oneness in every way possible. And one of the most common deceptions of the enemy is to try to divide the couple in such a way that they define their spouse as “the problem,” as “the enemy.”
Another expression we teach is:
- Pray it on them, don’t lay it on them.
The idea here is that verbalizing the flaws and deficiencies in your spouse, the places where their behavior in the marriage is not meeting your standards, or not meeting Biblical standards, is NOT an effective way to get them to change. Yet, God still cares about our hurts and so it is perfectly reasonable to take your concerns privately and directly to God and ask that He guide and convict the other in due time.
A third expression we often use is:
- Let go and let God.
Each person in the course is going to have to let go of the judgments, conclusions and the offenses that they have taken up against their spouse. [See endnote #1 on taking up offenses]. For instance, we teach couples not to wait for their spouse to ask for forgiveness, but to go to God directly and forgive their spouse for their mistakes. We also teach that couples are going to have to let go of the idea that they can make their spouse change. For instance, while the New Testament teaches husbands to love their wives, and wives to respect their husbands, it in no way condones a husband to demand, coerce, cajole, or manipulate his wife to respect him, nor to point out her deficiencies in doing so!
Our course teaches that they are going to have to find a place of peace in the carrying out of their own roles and responsibilities before God. In a Christian course like this, the letting go is very much entwined with trusting in the power of the finished work of Christ on the cross.
OK! What does Marriage Ministry have to do with Israel?
After God called my wife and me to get more involved in things happening in Israel, at first we saw it as a new calling. But we quickly realized that both marriage and a healthy understanding of Israel are based on a single foundational principle: covenant.
Everything that I just stated about the transformation of a married couple can be summarized as:
Helping each spouse reframe their perspective of marriage away from just focusing on the actions of the other, into seeing both themselves and their spouse as together being in direct covenant relationship with God.
But I can summarize the work as it relates to Christians and Jews in a similar way:
Christians need to reframe their perspective of Israel away from just focusing on the actions of Israel, to that of seeing Israel being in covenant relationship with God, even as we Christians are in covenant relationship with God.
Bringing it Home
So now we circle back to the opening statement of this column. I wrote:
Christians are making a great mistake in the way we approach that great divide that separates us as Christians and Jews: the issue of Jesus/Yeshua being the Messiah.
Here is how I see it. Christians are treating the Jews like that couple that just walked in the door of our living room. We Christians are preoccupied with what the other party — the Jews — are doing wrong. We are convinced that what is needed to remedy the great divide in our relationship is that the Jews will get their act together and fix themselves, that they will hurry up and recognize Jesus/Yeshua as the Messiah.
Even worse, I see that we Christians have even gone so far as to take up an offense against the Jews that they cannot see a truth that is for us “as plain as the nose on our face.” I personally witnessed these offenses directly after I published an interview in 2015 on the topic of why Jews don’t see Jesus in Isaiah 53. The comments were so very negative, and even nasty towards the Jews. It got so bad that I finally disabled all comments. Clearly, many Christians are offended that Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
So what should we Christians do about the great divide between us?
My answer to that is the very same answer that you would get from attending a marriage course in our home.
The Christian focus on how the Jews need to change, is not going to make the relationship between Christians and Jews better, but worse.
Instead, we as Christians need to turn to God above, and we need to ask God:
- What sins do WE need to confess ourselves?
- How do WE need to get right with you, God?
- What actions can WE do, that would be appreciated by the Jewish people?
- How might WE show respect to the Jews?
And then WE need to do those things, within the context of our love and reverence for our Messiah! The opening statement of the great passage on marriage in Ephesians 5 begins:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ… Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)
And when it comes to our desire that they might see Jesus/Yeshua as Messiah, I think that such things are a matter that needs to be taken to God directly in the form of prayer and study as part of that whole process of us getting right with God.
What you just read above first occurred to me in Jerusalem in January 2018. I inserted it parenthetically into a talk that I was giving at the Watchmen and Women on the Walls prayer conference put on by Christine Darg. She stopped me in my tracks and would not let me venture onto another topic until I had fully explained everything about this new idea. In her opinion it was THE most important point of the talk.
Today I have added a facet that did not occur to me then. Our responsibility as Christians is to do more than to just “let go and let God” have His way with His own Jewish people. We must specifically and intentionally remove any offense that we have taken up against our Jewish brethren. It is time to confess the sin of “taking up an offense against the Jews for not recognizing Jesus/Yeshua as the Messiah.”
Perhaps this suggestion is itself offensive to you! In that case you can add one more offense to your personal list, by taking up an offense at me for having the arrogance and audacity to tell you that you need to repent.
Perhaps you are not offended, but you just don’t think it applies? To that I would say, many of our offenses are hard to discern. It won’t hurt to ask God to search you and know your heart. But don’t trust your own discernment — it’s not so productive to take on a task ourselves, that rightfully belongs to God:
Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
You can remove an offense in your life, by asking God’s forgiveness right now for any offense you have personally taken up against the Jewish people for not recognizing Jesus/Yeshua. It is not wrong for us to want Jesus to be recognized, but it is sin to take up an offense against those who do not.
Could it be that our lack of dealing with this offense, and our lack of focusing on our own sins before God, is even right now delaying the arrival of the Messiah? I personally believe that Jesus is waiting for The Church to step into this issue and ask for forgiveness.
That doesn’t start collectively. It starts with you and me going to God individually. Please don’t delay.
- Here is an explanation of what I meant by “taking up offenses.” Conflicts and failures between people are inevitable. But it is all too common and is as easy as slipping on wet ice, for us to fall into the trap of allowing the failures of the other party to begin to build up an emotional wall between us and them, resulting in a sore, hurting place that festers inside our hearts and ultimately prevents close relationship with the other party. It doesn’t mean that the failures of the other party shouldn’t hurt, it’s how we respond to that hurt that determines whether “an offense” has been taken up against them. The Psalms teach us how to take our hurts directly to God.