Making Christ Believable: The new journey in Jewish-Christian relationships

April 11, 2022
parade in central Jerusalem
Thousands of Christian Evangelicals and Israelis march in a parade in central Jerusalem marking the Feast of the Tabernacles, 2018. (Photo credit: NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90)

Difficult questions

In my role as host of the ‘Beersheba Vision’ program on ‘Jewish radio’ and my work with ‘Bridges for Peace’ as an Australian board member, I am often faced with some intrigue, mixed with concern from many of my evangelical friends. Their comments run like this, 

‘it’s great what you are doing Barry, but are they being saved, are you getting them across the line?” You say they have a passionate love for God, but they are deceived Barry, if they haven’t said the “sinner’s prayer” they are going to hell.’

These are vexing matters and at a strictly theological level there are no easy answers. 

Evangelism has never been about theological debates, I have seen a few of those over the years between prominent Jewish and Christian leaders and they don’t go anywhere. Real transactions with God take place at the heart level not the head. Unfortunately, in the past in our dealings with Jews, however well intentioned, they have still seen themselves as targets. What is clear in our relationship with our Jewish brethren, is that we are to love them unconditionally. I might add that I feel exactly the same way when I have had the privilege of interacting with our Yazidi community in Toowoomba.

as we reach out to one another in a genuine spirit of love, we find ourselves rising above the historical and theological divides that have torn us apart

But back to our relationship with the Jewish community, we must remember for the last 2,000 years, in the main, “Christians” have not been kind to Jews, to put it mildly, and as C.S. Lewis said, “Christians behaving badly, make Christ unbelievable.” We must remember that it is not our job to save anyone, that’s the work of the Spirit of God in a person’s heart, but it is our job to make Christ believable—it is our job to love, and to love unconditionally as that’s how it works. Paul reminds us that we can have prophecies, knowledge to fathom mysteries and faith to remove mountains, but if we have not love we are just a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor 13.1)

The principle of Bridge Building is the key

The below picture shows the building of the largest steel spanned bridge in the world, Sydney Harbour Bridge. Typically, large arched bridges such as the Sydney Harbour are built from both sides, and if the trajectory is correct the spans meet in the middle. They are strong because of the rising arch and the way they equally transfer the responsibility of any weight to the foundations on both sides to achieve this and as the spans reach out across the divide, they must rise in doing so. The symbolism of this is profoundly important in Jewish Christian relationships, because as we reach out to one another in a genuine spirit of love, we find ourselves rising above the historical and theological divides that have torn us apart over the centuries. These “bridges” connect people at the heart level, and it is at this level the Spirit of God moves powerfully. It is here where scales start to fall from eyes on both sides, as the apostle Paul reminds us our vision of the things of God are also somewhat clouded. (1 Cor 13.12) At these times the blessings flow both ways, my own faith has been enriched by this interchange. It is only when we arrive at this kind of transcendent experience in our faith journey that we can begin to discover something afresh of the purposes of God.

A fireside chat with a Rabbi

In my weekly broadcast on Jewish Community radio ‘J-AIR’, (88.0 FM) I have started a regular feature called a “fireside chat with a Rabbi.” It’s not often a Christian sits down with a Rabbi to discuss matters of mutual interest but it is happening more and more. Rabbi Reisenberg of Melbourne, made a significant comment recently when he said, “when hands reach out to me in genuine friendship, it behoves me to reach out my hand in return.” That joining of hands, is a picture of practical bridge building and it’s how strong and meaningful relationships are forged.

A new era in Christian Jewish relationships

Dr David Adler president of the ‘Australian Jewish Association’ said recently at a ‘Southern Cross Alliance For Israel’ zoom meeting, “It is encouraging to see the increasing number of Christians standing for Israel as a matter of principle.” ‘The Jerusalem Post’ recently ran an article headlined, “Why Jews and Christians must work together for Israel.” The article indicated a new era in Jewish Christian relationships was evolving and I believe they are right. Rabbi Eckstein, founder and president of the ‘International Fellowship of Christians and Jews’ said, “I think we are at a place where Christians understand Jewish peoples redlines and sensitivities.” Their concern that our only interest in reaching out to them is to proselytise is disappearing as increasing numbers of Christians are reaching out to them with only one agenda and that being to love them unconditionally. As the Rabbi remarked, this an historic journey and new in our day, although there is still a long way to go and a lot of places to visit.

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Barry Rodgers

The Australian Light Horse Association Ltd is a non-profit organisation, whose aim is to preserve the history and tradition of the Australian Light Horse and its predecessors.

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