Recently I read a “Dear Abby” type of column written by a rabbi in a local Jewish newspaper. The letter to the rabbi was anonymous and focused primarily on the two issues — (1) Can a non-Orthodox Jewish person have a relationship with a God that he/she views as dictatorial and unloving? and (2) Why doesn’t Judaism offer a way “to connect with God as an individual”? The letter broke my heart; however, there was a part of one paragraph that I cannot help but share with you…
I was at a Christian funeral last week. I was so moved by the unconditional love that Jesus has for those who believe in him. I wish our God loved us that way. It is very tempting…
The rabbi’s response to him/her was interesting as on one hand, he promised that every Jewish soul had a place in the olam haba (world to come); however, on the other hand, he states that “The important thing is that we’re all on the ladder and climbing upward; upward in our connection to God’s unconditional love for us, a love that he beckons us to embrace.” He advice also broke my heart because that is not the God I know and it is not the God of Biblical, true Judaism. Therefore, and I have no idea if he/she will ever read my response, I decided to write a letter to anonymous hoping that he/she will read it one day and know the true answer that God wants to share with him/her…
Shalom and blessings in the name of Jesus the Jewish Messiah.
I know you don’t know me. I know you didn’t expect me to read your letter to the rabbi. I know you didn’t anticipate that I would feel such a strong desire to respond to your note … but I do. I do because I want to share with you my thoughts as a believer in the Jesus you saw at the funeral and to “correct” your misunderstanding of the God we share in so many ways.
What you experienced at the Christian funeral was very real. Jesus does love unconditionally. The emotions that you experienced is a reflection of what we as believers in Him are commanded to share with you as Jewish people. For did you know that Jesus was your Messiah … first (Romans 1:16)? We are commanded by Rabbi Sha’ul (we call him Paul) to “provoke” the Jewish people “to jealousy” (Romans 11:11). For you see, I think the emotions you experienced were a sense of jealousy and a longing for a relationship that you CAN have with God through Messiah Jesus.
God also loves unconditionally in the sense that He did all the work for our salvation and our relationship with Him. Jesus told a Pharisee (what we would call a modern-day Hasid) named Nicodemus in John that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for our sins. The onus for the relationship with God is not on US or OUR merits (mitzvahs) because the prophet Isaiah tells us that our best is nothing but disgusting to God (Isaiah 64:5 in the JPS Version of the Tanakh). The relationship with God is based on what HE did and does for us. He loves us unconditionally. All He asks is that we accept the grace, the gift, the truth of Jesus the Jewish Messiah that He gave first to you as a Jewish person and then to the rest of the world.
You don’t have to EARN God’s love. He already does; however, He will not force you but He is waiting for you to receive the truth of John 3:16. I hope you will read this letter someday and find the peace and relationship with God you are longing to find. If you have any questions, please do not be hesitant to contact me anonymously or as yourself at firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the comment box below. We are waiting to show you God’s unconditional love and His desire to have a personal relationship with you.
Shalom in Jesus,
Amy Downey — Director