With the conflict between Israel and Palestine once again dominating headlines, an increased sense of kinship and obligation can be felt making its way through Western Christianity. “We Stand With Israel” bumper stickers reappear, and miniature Israeli flag lapel pins sit proudly next to the stars and stripes. The sense of allegiance and support seems to run deeper than a mere geopolitical alliance. There are some very good reasons why Israel is an American ally, but within the church that fervorous support appears to be because of the shared root of our faith.
“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” (Romans 11:17-18)
The Jews, the children of Abraham, are worthy of the love and support we would show any wayward brother or sister in Christ that has been cutoff from the faith. “We are grafted into this tree, and they’ve been cut off. In being grafted in, part of that hope is that we will bring them back in again,” reminds Rev. Paul Koch on this week’s episode of Ringside.
The Jewish people, however, are not the same as the nation of Israel or Judaism. “The Judaism that started 200 years before Christ and remained afterwards, that is no closer to Christianity than Islam is,” according to Rev. Joel Hess, “It’s an invention that Abraham would not recognize as the faith of the Old Testament. Jews as individuals, who are children of Abraham, are who Paul is talking about in his letter. It’s sad that they as human beings, as sons and daughters of Abraham, have rejected the Christ. Not that their new religion they invented rejects it, that’s dead anyways, but they as human beings who rejected Christ hopefully overtime…they come back in.”
“Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? … How can these things be?”Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:4, 9-10)
Even as Christ walked the earth, something had gone awry with this Judaism. It was skewed. The teachers of Israel didn’t know the true faith as it had been handed to their forefathers. “I think that it’s so important [to understand] that Judaism is not the Abrahamic faith. It doesn’t exist along with Christianity,” Joel continues, “It’s not like it’s the same thing except it doesn’t have Jesus. No, the root of Judaism is the law; the root of the Abrahamic faith is gospel, not law.”
There is no Christian position on the modern state of Israel, and neither its successes nor its failures will have any impact on God’s work. The Christian position on the Jewish people is the same as it is for every people, to share the gospel, even as we acknowledge the special role they play as God’s chosen people and the carriers of the Abrahamic covenant until the rest of us could be grafted in. The faith of Abraham, our faith, is rooted in the gospel. It’s all about the promises God handed down, first for the Jews, and then for the Gentiles. It is this gospel message that Abraham would recognize if he found himself dropped into the our world today. That’s why, as Joel says, “Abraham would come to my church.”
This article is a brief examination of the “metaphorical and theological rugby match” that was this week’s episode of Ringside Preachers. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Paul Koch, Rev. Ross Engel, and Tyler the Intern as they duke it out over the best gifts for graduates (hint: it’s fast food and Mountain Dew), the role of the Holy Spirit, the nation of Israel, and more on the full Ringside Preachers episode, “Ringside Has Been Slayed by the Spirit”
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