In Israeli Messianic congregations we
occasionally bemoan the fact that the makeup of the believing body at
this time seems not very "Israeli", with well over half of us being
immigrants from Russia, USA, Ethiopia, etc. Most of our congregants do
not speak Hebrew as their mother tongue. Hebrew language mistakes are
made with great regularity - and sometimes great hilarity - often causing
the more fluent Hebrew speakers to wince. Many events are held with
multiple translations, chiefly in Hebrew, English and Russian. This makes
communication and unity an even greater challenge than it naturally would
be under more "homogeneous" circumstances.
Many of us would like to see the movement here focus the Israeli and
Hebrew character of the congregation into a more concentrated, native and
local flavor. This is a process that occurs in many nations when faith in
Yeshua becomes more of a local, indigenous phenomenon and less of a
foreign one. Of course it is ironic that Yeshua is a foreigner to many
Israelis, since he was an Israeli himself. In the midst of a gradual
shift toward a more Israeli-flavored faith, we also need to enjoy the
journey right here right now. This is a new understanding for me
personally, and it starts with the Holy Spirit ...
Holy Spirit Translation
The first miracle the Holy Spirit did after being poured out in power,
was to translate praise proclamations into many languages! This
should console and encourage us in our multiple translation reality (Acts
2:4). Once I saw that priority of the Holy Spirit, I began understanding
that our heart and God's heart are different in approach to
diversity of language, culture and identity.
An Infinite Heart
Human nature is selfish and ethnocentric. Our heart and our love seem so
very limited. We are far and away most concerned with our own group and
view that group as central. We pat ourselves on the back when we succeed
in opening up our hearts a little to accept and love and care for our
family members and the people around us.
God's nature is unselfish and giving. His heart is infinitely wide,
containing unlimited love and appreciation and identification with every
people group, every tribe and indeed every person.
God's heart is wide. He is not willing that any should
perish. He so loved the world that He gave His son. He suffers the little
children to come to him. God's heart is wide. He cared for
the heathen sinners of Nineveh and even their animals (Jonah 4:11). He
calls Egypt His people, and Assyria (Turkey/Iraq/Iran) the work of His
hand (Isaiah 19:24,25). God's heart is wide.
He IS willing to make us clean. He reaches out His hand to touch the
untouchable. God's heart is wide. He has other sheep in
addition to those in our little group (John 10:16). He is asking for the
nations (Ps.2:8). He is the hope of nations. God's heart is
wide. He takes pleasure in the wicked turning to Him and living
(Ezekiel 18:23). He makes Himself available to people who did not ask for
Him, to nations that do not know Him (Isaiah. 65:1). God's heart
is wide. He made the nations so they would find Him (Acts 17:26-27).
He is rescuing a multitude from every tongue and tribe and nation.
God can make more room in OUR hearts. His love filled Abraham's
heart to say: "Oh that Ishmael would live before You" (Genesis
17:18). He can help our hearts to say, "May the (Arab) descendents of
Ishmael live before You." Yeshua encouraged His listeners to be like a
half-pagan Samaritan whose heart was expanded to have mercy on a Jew. He
commands us: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).
He did not promise in vain, "By this will all men know that you are my
disciples if you have love one for another" (John 13:35).
Appreciating the Diversity and Channeling It
All of us have different ingredients in our ethnic/cultural identity: our
parentage, our language(s), our nation(s), etc. For some of us these
ingredients may be fewer and more focused. For others of us it may seem
like we live in a several different worlds. Many of our families have one
spouse with Jewish heritage and the other with a different heritage. Some
of our families do not have a Jewish family background at all, but have
joined themselves to Israel.
Join us in praying that this "melting pot" not be viewed as a liability,
but as an opportunity, a doorway for opening our hearts wide to loving
and praying for all peoples, from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to
the ends of the earth.