A Question of Faith
“For Christ himself has brought us peace. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” (Ephesians 2:14)
When Stephanie and I were married we decided that religion would not be a big part of our life. She had been raised in a family of nominal Roman Catholic faith. I had been raised in a Jewish family where no one ever prayed, read the Bible or talked about God. For the first seven years of our marriage questions about religion never came up. Until one afternoon when our then six year old son came in the house from playing outside with a friend. “Daddy, Johnny saw our menorah and Christmas tree through the window and wants to know are we Jewish or are we Christian?”
I answered him the way most Dads do when they don’t want to deal with their child’s question “Go ask your mother.” So he did. Stephanie came to me and said, “We need to do something.” She said she would be willing to convert to Judaism but I would have to take the lead. I didn’t want to do anything because I didn’t believe in anything. Better to be an honest agnostic than a religious hypocrite, right? So I did nothing hoping it would all go away over time.
Then one day Stephanie said, “If you’re not willing to take the lead then I will. I’m going to take the kids to church and you need to come with us. Whatever we do we need to do it as a family.” Church? No way. Jewish people don’t go to church. But how could I not go with her when she had been willing to convert for my sake? A neighbor had invited Stephanie to the small Episcopal church she attended and the Sunday morning arrived when we agreed we would all go. I still remember the day like it was yesterday even though it happened over 25 years ago.
I stood in the kitchen looking out the window into our backyard. “What was I thinking? Why had I agreed to do this?” I was certain the church would be full of people who would not want me there. I associated Christians with the Holocaust. I thought they looked at all Jews as “Christ killers”, a term I heard growing up. I knew nothing about Jesus other than something bad happened to him 2,000 years ago, some Jewish people were involved and for some reason there were people who hated Jews ever since. I saw the Cross as a symbol of hatred and persecution. I got into the driver’s seat of our minivan, slammed the door shut and said, “Just don’t think I’ll be doing this every Sunday! I’ve got better things to do.”
When we got there the people seemed genuinely glad to see me. I heard the gospel read and Jesus referred to as “rabbi”. I didn’t realize that Christians even read from the Old Testament. Eventually, I didn’t know it but Stephanie and her new friends began to pray for me. There were times when I sat in that little church and the Holy Spirit washed over me and I wept. Not tears of joy or sadness – it was more like a cleansing. I began to understand the Bible as one story from Genesis to Revelation. One Sunday as I walked out of the church the priest asked me what I thought about all this. All I could say at the time was “All I know is that I leave here feeling a lot better than when I came.” That’s been true ever since.
And the Cross became to me no longer a symbol of hatred and persecution but of God’s incredible love and forgiveness both for Jews and Gentiles. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us” (Ephesians 2:14). Been thinking of inviting someone to church but haven’t gotten around to it? Invite them. You never know what God and some faithful prayers can do once they get there.