The events in Israel over the past few weeks have given many an opportunity for pause. The Jewish Light, our St. Louis Jewish community newspaper, had a front-page article this week on the funeral in Israel for the three teenagers killed recently. Some of the coverage shared the world-wide grief of the Jewish community over their deaths, and highlighted the sense of family that there is in the Jewish community at large. A local rabbi was quoted as saying that their deaths are “a blow to all of us.” And while I doubt he knew these kids personally, he is reflecting the sentiment that what happens to Jews anywhere in the world affects the whole community.
This sense of community is an admirable thing, and one I think that is often lost when a Jewish person comes to faith in Jesus as their Messiah. The reality is that by their faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, they become a member of a community that is far greater than what we can see, and transcends time and place. But reality seems far from perception, as Jewish people who come to faith often find themselves to be part of a community that does not seem to want to live that way. The churches that we find ourselves a part of often do not reflect this sense of community that Jewish people are used to. That makes our transition into the Church very difficult sometimes, and Satan preys on that to keep hearts hard to the Gospel.
But these events in Israel also highlight a greater problem. Jews are generally humanists, they don’t believe in “Original Sin” and give great nod to the “moral imperative” that Jews are good people and can make themselves and the world a better place. The whole concept of Tikkun olam (“repairing the world”) is an expression of the Jewish sentiment that humanity has a shared responsibility to heal and transform the world, and while humanity may have that shared responsibility, Jews take this very seriously. And, altruistic as this might be, and it does make for generally good people who are philanthropic, who work to relieve suffering, and who care about people, it also is a failing proposition. So when, on the heels of the deaths of these three teenagers, there follows the arrest of six young Jewish men for the death of a Palestinian teenager, ostensibly as revenge for the first three deaths, the Jewish community is stunned and hopefully finally asking the right questions. I’ve had at least two conversations with Jewish people this week following the arrest of these six. “How can we do these things?” is asked, and suddenly, the Jewish moral imperative is in question. Our ability to transform the world is obviously not there. The only answer to the problem of sin is Jesus. We have great opportunity now to give Him nod and share the one who does heal and transform lives. He makes us brothers and sisters, so let us live that way!