It was not many weeks ago that my wife Linda and I said our final goodbyes (until we meet again) to my very dear father-in-law, who was also a wonderful friend and who had a faith as gold tested in the fire.
Long before he became a believer in his early sixties, he had loved and served the Jews for many years. As an expert builder, and as a cheerful, friendly man who took great pride in his work, John soon became known and loved by the Jewish community in the London area, and some of these friendships lasted a lifetime. He was certainly building on a strong foundation in blessing the Jews (Gen 12:3).
I see it as a parable of how the Gentile Church should treat those who gave us so much. The least we can do is to love and serve them, even in providing material support – one of the criticisms levelled against dad over the years was that he didn’t charge enough for his labour!
But he made enough to provide comfortably for his family and eventually came to follow Jesus through the witness of Linda, his eldest daughter, whose own faith walk is also a picture of how we should be seen by our Jewish friends.
John was initially dead against Christianity, and Linda had developed a hatred of him through what turned out to be false accounts of his behaviour. But then she was challenged by a fellow believer to forgive him.
Unwillingness to forgive is a major stumbling block to progress in discipleship (Matt 6:15), but Linda plucked up the courage to forgive her dad, later following it up by giving him a New Testament (it was a Gideon Bible that planted the seed for her own faith).
Slowly, but surely, his attitude changed and he eventually started attending a lively evangelical parish church where he took his first faltering steps as a believer.
Robbed of much education as an evacuee during the war, he always struggled with reading, but in his search for a deeper faith, he became quite an avid reader – especially of the Bible – even reading my latest book, King of the Jews!
As I said, the part Linda played in her dad’s faith walk is an example of how we Gentiles should behave before our Jewish friends. She clearly prayed for him and honoured him, and even proclaimed the gospel to him through simply giving him a New Testament. And, most importantly, in view of her negative feelings towards him, she forgave him.
Though the early church had to follow Jesus’ example in forgiving those who killed the Saviour, especially as it was in God’s perfect plan anyway, the modern church should be seeking forgiveness for the way we have persecuted and hurt Jewish people over the centuries. We must now show them kindness and respect, and point them to their Messiah.
As Paul wrote to the early Roman church (a mixture of Jews and Gentiles) in explaining why the believers of Macedonia and Achaia had contributed gifts for their poor brethren in Jerusalem: “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” (Romans 15:27)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International; and King of the Jews, also available from Christian Publications International.