What’s The Point Of It All?*
*See John 12:32
Many years ago B.C. (before children) my wife and I were traveling through Atlanta when we stopped at Powers Ferry Church of Christ to worship our God one Lord’s Day morning. As the evangelist was preaching, I noticed a man sitting across the aisle that possessed markedly Semitic features. I was intrigued having never met another Jewish Christian, apart from my brother in the flesh who baptized me, and this man certainly fit the bill.
After worship and bible class ended, the preacher, being familiar with my family and heritage, said he had someone he wanted me to meet, and I knew who that someone was going to be! Finally, after several years of following Christ, I would meet a fellow traveler, a sojourner like unto Abraham. Oh the things we’ll talk about! What Jewish holiday did we miss the most? How mad was your family when you converted? Bacon is awesome!
As I approached the gentleman, who I discovered later was from Detroit and traveling as well, I thought of an opening remark. Should I say it in Hebrew? Could I say it in Hebrew? Better stick to English. Conversational Hebrew is not my strong point. Come to think of it, I barely passed high school English. I settled it in my mind. I’d give him the secret, worldwide conspiracy handshake all Jews know!
When the introductions began we clasped hands in a non-conspiratorial way, and respectfully locked eyes, each of us looking for that familial recognition, that long lost ancestral tie that bound us as brothers through Abraham. The tie was there… “Steve is a Jew”, said the preacher, “and Steve, Mahmoud here is a Palestinian Arab.” The breath went out of me. Sweat immediately beaded on my forehead and dripped down my back! I froze. Unable to speak, terrified. I could hear every pounding beat of my heart in my ears. I had never been so close to my ancient enemy before. I was in a powerless position; he had my hand in his grip. So many thousands of years of enmity between our people… How naive and foolish had this preacher been, to throw us together?
The smile my evangelist friend wore spoke of great self-satisfaction at what was transpiring in his vestibule. I was certain his smile would soon be vanquished in one act of blinding violence against me. I had been taught my entire life that any son of Ishmael would kill me if he got close enough. Had the randomness of my birth and the sin of pride ended my young life? How could I have been so careless? My immediate regret was that my beloved wife would witness the slaughter of her husband, and return home alone to bear those scars for a lifetime. “Mahmoud is your brother in Christ,” said the preacher softly, perhaps sensing my distress.
Now, please don’t think less of me due to my reaction. Self-preservation is a powerful thing. It pushes us to act without having to analyze a situation, so as not to waste valuable seconds. I was in self-preservation mode from years of conditioning by the media, and my time in the synagogue. The old fight or flight response, sympathetic nervous system overload, but with that statement of unanimity, every muscle released its tension. The sweat parted like the Red Sea. My heartbeat faded from my ears and my speech returned.
We spoke for some time, this Jew and Arab, about the difficulties of being Christians like us. His family in Bethlehem, where he was born on the West Bank, issued a fatwa and was actively trying to find him and kill him! It just felt, like my family was. What wrong had he committed to merit such an edict? He left Islam for the Lord. That certainly put my troubles in perspective. At least the Rabbis weren’t trying to kill me for leaving Judaism, although I did lose my 10% lifetime discount on bagels.
When we parted that morning, these two descendants of Isaac and Ishmael hugged each other tightly, to the point of tears, as brothers in Christ. As my wife and I sat in our car to leave, I couldn’t stop smiling or talking about what had just transpired. It truly was the greatest lesson the Lord ever taught me about why he came to the earth. I haven’t seen my Arab brother since that day, but I will again, before the throne of God, if we remain faithful.
So, what’s the point of it all? For the Cross of Christ to reconcile and unify men from every corner of the earth to each other, and mankind from every age to our Father in Heaven, and the Lord does just that! On that long ago Lord’s Day in Georgia, over 20 years now, though the weather was perfect, the crisis in the Middle East was called on account of reign, the reign of Christ!
Steve is a father, brother, husband, brother, deacon, and a brother