"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The subject matter? Anti-Semitism. There as so many examples to pull from, but I’m choosing one from my latest trip to the Land, and specifically during that adventure; a visit to some newly met friends in the Hebron area. I’m going to keep names and the exact location vague for what should become obvious reasons, and I ask your wise-counsel, Master, to guide me.
The couple in question were introduced to me as Jewish believers who had opened their hearts to you, Jesus, as their Savior and King. The modern term that is commonly used to describe such people is Messianic. I’m not sure that quite encapsulates the complexities of these folks, so I’ll try to help delineate by summarizing the no-man’s land such believers dwell in. First, they are frowned upon―in some cases, shunned―by the Jewish community itself and even family; being viewed as abandoners of their “original” faith. Secondly, they are viewed with odd suspicion by some contemporary Christians who have not properly studied, nor understand the distinction this group represents Biblically (Yes, Lord, I have heard you – these are a portion of the “Remnant” coming to age). Thirdly, they are doubly condemned by radicalized sects within the Muslim faith and to some nationalistic-socialist factions for what is perceived as a bastardization of God’s edicts.
I confess Lord, the courage of my friends, along with others like them, and their commitment to their faith amazes me. But I have also been concerned in the recent past that in some cases, this clannish sector of believers purposely set themselves apart from those (like me) who desire genuine spiritual fellowship. Messianics, as I have experienced them, can be prone to expect we Non-Jews to embrace and live out the more fundamental constructs of the rabbinical faith. Consequently, it is the same issue that James, Paul, Peter and the Jerusalem Council had to work through as referenced in the book of Acts, chapter 15. Ironically in contrast, modern society also expects Jews and Messianics to be somehow invisible in their practices. And when they do become noticed; they are punished as evidenced by countless persecutions.
Lord, all of this is not to protest our differences, but to celebrate how one Messianic couple is standing against segregational, anti…any-group’s kind of thinking. They are doing it by the most simple of methods, plying their simple gift of hospitality. These two invited our traveling group into their home, located very close to the town of Hebron in the southern Negev. Right away I knew this would be a remarkable encounter because their home is near to a Palestinian border area wherein factions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and other anti-Jewish groups encourage such things as mortar attacks and fire-kites being flown into and released to burn the Land. Even the tombs of the Patriarchs, including the resting places of Abraham and Sarah are cordoned off and claimed as exclusive sites for West Bank inhabitants, while access for Jews is forbidden. Such are the conditions near the homestead of (whom I will call) Isaac and Rebecca. You, Lord, know and bless their true identities.
Isaac and Rebecca hold a weekly Shabbat gathering that is well attended, but in our case, they made special accommodations for us in the middle of the week. I had never been to this area of Israel and was not sure what we would encounter. We were there on the very week when a number of incendiaries had been launched and caused fires in the area. But the neighborhood we drove to spoke of peace and tranquility. Even more so, the home of I and R. They greeted us with embraces, food and, particularly Rebecca welcomed us as if we were familiar family members who had come for one of many visits. I felt, walking into this first encounter as if I had known her and Isaac for many long years.
We ate, we sang, Isaac shared a deep-rooted teaching; I have to admit, though I remember it all being poignant, it was not any one word or a moment that captured my interest. It was the sharing heart of this Messianic couple―non-judgmental even to the Muslims that would condemn them; inviting souls, sincerely sharing love with others―that melted any misgivings I might have held walking into this place.
Don’t get me wrong, Lord, I’ve experienced warm hospitality before, but this…was something more, something you enhanced. I would call it universal, but I’m not sure that even covers it. After all, you chose one family, Israel not just to dwell with you, but to share; to testify. You did not intend a conquering, racial extermination or genocide of the other families, but an invitation to a communion of the SAME. Rebecca and Isaac were to me an example of the spiritual salve you desire to be spread throughout the world―overcoming differences with kindness, humility and sincere compassion for the wellbeing of others…for me.
And in this time of terror tactics, where hatred is shouted as a banner of pride, the whisper of true love offered within the peaceful garden known as Rebecca and Isaac’s home shocks me into the realm of spiritual hope―a place where no bullet or weapon or word can kill what you have breathed life into.
I desperately needed to be in that place at that time, Lord. You wanted me to be in that place; drawing nearer to the Kingdom, knowing that battles rage around us, worldwide. Yet by the hospitality of our new found friends, and by your grace, I am healed of my fear and strengthened in my courage so that now I can stare the enemy square in the face and say with sincere hospitality, “My God reigns―his love can save even you, because it has saved me; it has saved Isaac and Rebecca. Don’t fight us, join us.”
Read more on the subject of seeking honest relationship with others in Mark’s new book, Marginalized, found at www.RUTmanagement.com.