Thursday, January 04, 2007

Paul and the Jews

Paul the apostle has appeared in a modern university! After three years of staying with and learning from his friend, Don—a professor of Hebrew literature—he is now answering question in a lecture hall on the university campus.

Tom: Thank you for calling on me. After listening to your answers, I truly believe that you are the real Paul from the first century, although I have no idea how such a thing could be…
Paul: Nor I. It is just the power of God at work to do the mysterious and previously unknown. I am here to just do His will.
Tom: That is wonderful. It is also wonderful to finally be able to talk to you because you can see our world through clearer eyes than we can ourselves.
Paul: I guess that remains to be seen.
Tom: For instance, I would like to have you tell the truth about the Jews and how they are corrupting the world with their greed and hatred.
Paul: Well, I am still a stranger in these times. What do you mean by “Jews”?
Tom: What else could I mean? The false people in synagogues who call themselves “Jews” but are really trying to undermine our society and way of life…
Paul: Please excuse me. How are these “Jews” false?
Tom: First of all, they are ethnically impure, unlike you or Jesus. They do not come from the same bloodline as the Jews of ancient days, but are from European descent.
Paul: Certainly Jews today are ethnically different. But that nothing to do with “purity”. There is no such thing as a “pure” ethnic line. I belong to the tribe of Benjamin, but my tribe has Egyptian blood as well as some Ammonite and others. Even David, the blessed king of old, had Moabite blood in his veins, but few argued against his pure Israelite blood. Frankly, God, in his establishment of Israel, desired many nations and peoples to be drawn into Israel and mixed—especially the many nations of Japheth, the son of Noah, of which you are one. The only people God called impure were the Canaanites—and He also withdrew his command to destroy those people in order to have them accepted.
Tom: No—all the Canaanites were to be destroyed!
Paul: That is right, they were in the books of Exodus through Joshua. This is because of their impurity and the need of God to have a pure land for his people. But because his people did not destroy the Canaanites but assimilated them, God withdrew his command to destroy them in Judges 2. What do you think was the worst sin done in Scripture?
Tom: Marrying the impure bloodlines.
Paul: (Chuckling) My, you have a one-track mind, don’t you? No it was the sin Sodom attempted to do—to rape and degrade homeless immigrants. But Sodom was unsuccessful in their attempt to accomplish this sin in Scripture, even though they had the intent to do it. Do you know who was successful in this sin?
Tom: The sin of homosexuality? Well, the Greeks and the Romans…
Paul: No—listen. Not homosexuality. The sin of raping and degrading the homeless immigrant. Taking hospitality and perverting it to feed one’s lust to punish the stranger. That was the sin of Sodom. And it was the sin of Benjamin. My tribe. Benjamin is the smallest tribe because they were almost annihilated as punishment for this sin. They were successful, where Sodom didn’t fulfill their attempt. But the Jewish people—the pure of blood. God doesn’t care about blood. God cares about purity of heart. It is not the pure of blood that see God, but the pure of heart.
Tom: Well, Jews aren’t pure in heart either.
Paul: You seem to be having some trouble yourself.
Tom: Why do you say that?
Paul: Because you are excluding a people based on their race, instead of their actions or faith.
Tom: But you spoke against the Jews yourself. You know how evil these false Jews are.
Paul: Really? Where did I speak against the Jews?
Tom: First Thessalonians chapter two. You said, “The Jews are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men—they always fill up the measure of their sins, but wrath has come upon them to the utmost.” Clearly, you understood that the Jews were opposed to God, even as John did, as he said, “Those who are of thoe synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie, I will cause them to come and bow down at your feet.”
Paul: And who was John writing to again?
Tom: To the church of Philadelphia.
Paul: That makes sense. Let me explain the situation. First of all I was not speaking of all Jews, nor those who are ethnically Jewish, but those who persecuted the church. Note that both the Thessalonians and the Philadelphians were in Asia Minor, what you call “Turkey” today. The Judeans in that area hated all Christians, whether Jewish or Gentile in origin, and felt that we were destroying their way of life—just as you say the Jews are doing today. Neither I nor God were opposed to them because of their ethnic origins, nor because of their religious background. Rather, they were judged by God because they persecuted God’s people. Everyone who hates and tries to destroy God’s people will be destroyed. The emperor Claudius was attempting to take away some of the privileges Judeans had enjoyed previously, and he even excluded them from Rome. This, I believe, was because they were persecuting God’s people who had risen up within themselves—and was a punishment that initially came from Jesus, at the right hand of God.
Tom: So you see how the Jews are destructive to God’s people!
Paul: The Judeans of that day had nothing to do with Jews today! Not only were they ethnically different, as you mention, but they were religiously a completely different creature! The Judeans were assured of their salvation because they were caretakers of God’s temple, which they felt was the center of God’s blessings. If anyone was going to be saved before God, it was going to be through the bathing, sacrifices, levitcal blessings and the prayers at the temple. They opposed us because we had a different temple, a different priesthood and a different sacrifice, all through Jesus. We declared the corruption of the old temple and the coming destruction of the temple and the cult. All of which happened, according to the word of Jesus, within a generation of Jesus’ death. They already were punished by God because their greatest connection with God was taken away by the hand of Jesus.
Tom: And so that punishment continues to this day.
Paul: Don’t you understand? The punishment occurred two thousand years ago! It’s done. Those that call themselves Jews do not even have the same Scriptures as we had. They cannot, because the law of Moses focused on the Temple and cult as well as the ethical obligations. They focus on the teachings of the rabbinic schools begun in my time, which, for the most part, excluded teaching about the Temple because the schools existed mostly after the Temple was destroyed. The hope of a renewed Temple remains—which is one of the points of the celebration of Hanukah—but the focus of the Judeans in my day just does not exist. Another thing—you note that I do not use your term “Jew” but “Judean” when talking about my ancient enemies?
Tom: Yes—why is that?
Paul: Because the term “Jew” is mostly an ethnic term, and a modern religious term for rabbinic Jews. But the ethnic Jews nor rabbinic Jews were not my enemies. My enemies were those who felt that salvation was found in joining the nation of Judea—a rite of citizenship that is centered in circumcision. To belong to the nation of Judea, they felt, was to belong to the temple, and so to belong to God’s people. For this reason, they strongly opposed us Christians as enemies of their state, because we were declaring a new nation in the person of Jesus. To be in Jesus is to be a part of a new nation with Jesus as king. To be a Christian is to be the citizen of a nation whose only temple is found in heaven, not a corrupt one on earth.
Tom: That may be so. But you don’t know, Paul, how modern Jews have corrupted Christians and have taken away all that we have. We must defend ourselves against them, separate ourselves from them….
Paul: You have forgotten the heart of Christianity. Jesus died so that Jews could come to God again. He didn’t destroy them or separate himself from them. He confronted them when they opposed him, but He never hated them, He never accused them of worldwide secret conspiracies. What was well known among all the people was enough. He exposed their corruption, the murder in their hearts, the idolatry in the Temple, the disloyalty to God by their own actions. He did not have to make false accusations of terrible deeds. He pointed out what was obvious to all. And he called them to be pure before God. I also did nothing in opposition to the Judeans. I prayed for them, and asked for their deliverance. I would have burned in hell for eternity if only I could have delivered my people—my initial nation—back to God. But this was not God’s call. God’s will was for Jesus to sacrifice himself for the Judeans, so to create an opportunity for them to be right with God. God’s will was for me to be persecuted for years and to eventually die so that the Gentiles could come to God so the Judeans would see God’s blessing and turn to Jesus themselves. All that we did, we did for the Jews. God loved the Judeans and sacrificed his best people for them. God loves the Jews today and many of his best people are calling them back to himself through Jesus. God also loves the Muslims today and the best of his people are sacrificing themselves—not to destroy Muslims, but to die for the sake of Muslims believing in Jesus. God’s way is not to destroy a people who hates his people—at least not for now. God’s way is to have his people’s lives be destroyed so that His enemies might come to love Him.
Tom: But…
Paul: If you wish to be saved, son, if you wish to follow the way of Jesus, you will find a way to set your life aside for your enemies. You will love the Jews so much that you will do anything to bring them back to God. If you do this, then God will bless you. But if you only express racial prejudice and encourage fear then you will be one of the persecutors God will destroy on the last day. The basis of persecution isn’t hatred, but fear. And if you think you have separated hatred out of your heart, you need to pray that God would take away your fear and replace it with love for your enemies.

No comments: