Lessons from the other side of the fence

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Okay guys, time for a pause in the chaotic excitement of saratreetravels for a couple of more serious thoughts. When you hang out in a messianic Jewish commune during Yom Kippur, serious thinking is bound to happen!

I guess the first important point is that these people are not actually messianic Jews. They are believers of the gospel who also adhere to many of the Old Testament Jewish traditions, but they very much have their own set of beliefs, which has been an eye-opening challenge to Sara and I in more ways than one.

One of the foundational beliefs of this place is that communal living is an essential pillar of salvation, and that Christianity has actually rejected the gospel by moving away from this lifestyle. They believe that by sharing their lifestyle (which is, no doubt, very beautiful) with others, they will eventually convince others to join them and in this way bring about the kingdom of God. What this boils down to for us is the feeling, from some members of the community at least, that we are being treated as projects, subtly interrogated and prodded into joining their ranks.

Being long-time camp counsellors and youth leaders, we are accustomed to sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others, and it brings us joy when we see people changed by it. It’s a scary truth, however, that we may also be accustomed to sharing that love ‘with strings attached’, so to speak, getting to know people with the ulterior motive of ‘converting them’ or asking leading questions to get them to give us the correct ‘church answers’. Having now been on the other side of the evangelism fence, we can safely say it is a very dehumanizing experience, being surrounded by people who only care about the parts of your life that fit into what they believe is good and right. I do not believe this is the love that Jesus intended us to share with the world. In order to truly love people, we need to be willing to genuinely listen and care about all parts of their life that are important to them, even if they’re not a part of our beliefs.

Our time here has really challenged us to think about how we approach relationships, especially in the camp/church context. If we don’t have a genuine interest in who someone actually is right now, what right do we have to be interested in their immortal souls? My prayer is that this will lead to more real relationships being built and more real conversations being had, which I believe this is the vision Jesus was intending to pass on to us in the first place.

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