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. (Revelation 5:9)
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.