Joel of Jerusalem Aug/Sep 1979
We have a new law here in Israel which says that Hebrew Christians are now to be called simply Christians. So was the recent decision of the courts in Israel, and it cannot be changed. The subject is closed!
After this law went into effect, I began receiving many reactions from some of my ‘friends’. Some ‘congratulated’ me saying, “You must be happy that you are no longer a Jew but only a Christian.” Others asked, “What are you doing here in Israel? You are not a Jew now, but a Christian.”
I tell them all the same thing. “I was born a Jew and am living in the Land of Promise. But, I did not become a GOOD Jew until I received the Lord Jesus as my Savior. Now I feel that I am a better Jew than you. You call yourself a Jew but no more, and as you live, so you will die. It is not enough to call yourself a Jew. What is important is to follow in His steps.” “Whose steps? they ask, and I reply, “The steps of the Lord. You cannot be just a Jew, or an Arab, or even one from the jungle. Everyone has the privilege of worshipping the Lord, and with Him there is no difference. The Lord does not ask who you are or to which nation you belong. He is the Father of all nations, the Father of the world. He will receive all who come to Him and He treats everyone with the same respect. He does not say, ‘This one is a Jew and this one a Christian. This one is rich and this one poor.’ All those who belong to Him belong to one family, the family of God.”
Some of them often remark, “Joel, you say that once you believe, you cannot turn away from it. Why is that?” I then ask, “Are you more happy than I am or my children? What more do you have than I? How could I turn away from all that I have?” “And what is that?” they ask. I tell them, “I have a big property that is all mine. Oh, I know that you have more earthly property than I have, but you also have more cares.”
When I said this, one man asked, “Who told you that? Are you saying that you are happier than I am?” “Yes,” I replied. “If this is so,”’ he said. “I want to see it with my own eyes, and I also want to show you what I have!” Even though He looked very unhappy, he didn’t understand how I could be happier than he with all his property and possessions, so he invited me to his home.
He did have a very big home and very nice, but happiness is more important than the size of the house. He has two boys and from the looks on their faces you would think they were poor, they looked so sick and embittered. There were no smiles on their faces and, in fact, they looked like they were in mourning. I was almost afraid to speak to this man, I felt so sorry for him. He had shown me a nice house, but no more. It all seemed so empty.
He then asked, “Well, what do you think of my house?” “You have a very nice house,”’ I replied, “but you are very poor.” “What?” he asked, as if he did not believe his ears. “How can you say that? You can see my big house, my fine furniture and everything else I have.” “But it is not enough,” I told him, “Why?” he asked. I replied, “Because you have no happiness in your home, and therefore you really have nothing at all.” “Do you think you have more than me?” he wanted to know. “Oh yes,” I said, “because I have the Lord in my heart, and in Him I have all of my property.” “You speak like a crazy man!” he told me. I then asked, “Do you have time to come to my home now? Of course I do not have such nice furniture and other things as you have, but I do have more in my home than you.” “What?” he asked, and I replied, “The light of the Lord is there.”
He and his two boys then came with me to my home. When we arrived, my youngest son was fighting with one of his brothers, but after a minute or so everything was just fine and the children were happy and played music and sang for our guests. Then my wife made fine hospitality for them, which she does so well. There was happiness such as this man had never known, and he seemed very saddened by it all, saying, “Now I see what you mean, but how can you be so happy?” “Because it is written, ‘ … whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he’ (Prov. 16:20). You can also have.a part in our happiness.” “Oh yes, I want that,” he said, “but how can I do it? We are Jewish and you are Christians.” I told him, “Who we are makes no difference. What is important is that we have one God and one law. You can read for yourself the Holy Bible and learn about whom it is written.”
By this time his boys were saying that they wanted to stay here and the father could see how happy they were, even though there was no fine furniture or big treasures as in his house, They were thrilled when my children asked them to go outside and play with a simple ball. The man appeared very sad again and did not know what to say. After some time though he confided, “I am ashamed to say this, but I must. I am jealous of you.”
I told him, “You can now see that you are a rich man, but no more.” He replied, “Yes, I can see that I am very poor and you are much richer than I. I am ready to give everything and anything to be as happy as you.”’ “And you can be so this very minute!” I told him. “Such happiness can belong to you and you can say to your children and family that you have put your trust in the Lord. He will then do what needs to be done in your life. Of this I am sure. It is written,’… come, take up thy cross, and follow me” (Mk. 10:21). It is easy to see that all those who choose to follow Him are happy, not embittered as you and many others like you who have no faith in the Lord. “How did you come to believe on Him?” he asked. He seemed very interested in knowing about this, so I was delighted to give my testimony for him.
After this he said, “You are very happy and I want to be this way also, but I have not the courage to do so.” “Of course you have,” I told him. “Just.open your heart to Him as to a Father. I will leave you alone to think on these things for awhile.” I then went outside to play with the children and when we came back into the house, he was most happy and smiling. The Light had come to him and had given him true happiness!