While we are continuing to distance ourselves from others, our Sunday school class leaders have been emailing the lessons to us.
Oddly, it seems more remarkable to see their words in print than to hear in person on Sunday. Likely, that is because I can pause, re-read and stop to think a minute before reading on.
This week’s lesson in particular has me considering Paul’s words, an exposition of Romans 11, about the relationship between the Jews and Gentiles in Rome. Paul emphasizes that, to God, the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians are the same. Same inheritance, same faith, same privileges.
Yet the two different groups came to faith having differing backgrounds and traditions.
Like us all, we bring our past into the present. The Gentiles thought themselves better than the Jews, possibly because they became the Church when the Jews were exiled. On the other hand, since the first Christians were Jews, they brought their spiritual traditions with them into the new faith. They looked down on Gentile Christians who did not include the rich Jewish traditions in their worship.
I consider myself privileged, in a way, since I did not grow up in “the church.” Via family and friends, I experienced several different worship styles, in Jewish synagogues, and Methodist and Catholic churches, among others.
Through a youth group associated with the Methodist church, I learned the basics of Christianity. Even though I was baptized in that church, there was no “heart and soul” connection.
My parents did not practice any religion. As a youth, my dad attended, with his mother, a small church in their hometown in rural Virginia. My mother was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in Brooklyn. With such disparate backgrounds, they did not lead my brothers and me in any spiritual direction.
When I decided to follow Jesus, I was, so to say, an empty vessel. There were no preconceived ideas, no rules that had to be followed from my old life to the new life. It was all fresh, a journey into learning Scripture and deciding for myself how my behavior would reflect the Messiah to the world.
Over the years, the Lord brought me to believers who inspired me, to churches where the Scriptures were preached and to friends who shared their faith. I am most grateful that the Lord led me, long before he nudged my heart toward Christ, to meet my future husband. Although he did not always “live the life,” he had a foundation that would later make him a stronger believer.
Along the way, together we discovered “Jews for Jesus.” Their teachings and presentations helped make the connection between Judaism and Christianity. I was delighted to understand more about the faith of my Jewish grandparents. I see certain elements in worship that were surely passed on from the early Jewish Christians.
My flaws are surely as serious as those in the early church, among which are my envy of life-long Christians and pride of my Jewish family background.
Jewish by blood, not by faith. Christian by belief. What would Paul say?
Susan Anderson lives in Opelika with her husband. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.