Occasionally a young person does something that bolsters my hope in the next generation. As a university student with cross-cultural experience, Julie Teasdale had a passion for Christ and an exceptional gift for communicating her faith.
Julie is now with the Lord due to an untimely death, but her gift lingers on through letters and articles she wrote. I was impressed with her candor and insights in this article, and want to share it with you.
Julie was my friend.
Article by Julie Teasdale •
ON JEWS, GENTILES, AND A SACRIFICE FOR HUMANITY
The other night, my brother Yinug and I were sitting in a thatch hut talking about whether one could make enough good choices to earn one’s way to peace with God. “Maybe you are not choose,” Yinug said, at the end of our conversation. “Only God can choose you.”
Yinug is not really my brother, not biologically. We grew up on opposite sides of the world. I am an American who grew up in Africa; he grew up in the equatorial Pacific, where I also live now. According to Yapese custom, a stranger who chooses to live in Yap is adopted into a family, because the entire societal structure is based around the family. This adopted family does not, in any way, replace or exclude one’s biological family. And I, the adopted child, do not replace Yinug. I share what he has: the village, the beach, the father who is also the chief. So my family has grown. The family of my blood and the family that became my blood, wherever they are: in Yap or Africa or America. Or Israel.
For a very long time there have been arguments among theologians about whether God’s adoption of Gentiles signifies a rejection of the Jews—whether God has, so to speak, disowned His child, or replaced His child with a foreigner. I am not an authority on this or anything else, but it seems to me that one would distrust such a God, and that one would be right to do so.
The prophet Jeremiah knew about rejection and displacement. He knew the reality of human suffering so well that he said, woe to me and woe to my mother who bore me. He wrote during the Babylonian captivity, creating from pain some of the most beautiful poetry that the world has ever seen, and addressing the issue of whether God abandons His people. It was a very real question to him, as it must be to us also. The answer lets us know if there is any hope at all for humanity. The paradox of humanity is that we have creativity and conscience and love, and yet something inside of us is broken and cruel and self-destructive. It was clear to Jeremiah—and it is clear to many of us—that we all need saving.
Does God walk away? Or does God save?
This is not an easy question in a world of captivities and gas chambers and real human despair. Jeremiah wrote about cries of panic; about terror; about the absence of peace both within and without the Jewish soul, and the human soul. Even back then people were saying that Zion was an outcast that no one cared for. That the covenant God had made with His people was broken. In response to this, God says that He is a father to Israel and that Ephraim is His firstborn. He says He’ll turn their mourning into joy. “If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you.”1
God doesn’t break covenants. Human beings break covenants. We violate commandments that we promised to keep. We hurt whom we are meant to love. All of us. And we cause tremendous suffering. In the midst of it, the suffering of Jeremiah and the Jews, God introduces the New Covenant. The New Covenant—unlike the old covenant of laws that we could not keep—gives humanity a chance. It gives us a sacrifice that is both final and infinite. It gives a sacrifice that can deal with an infinite number of sins. It offers justice AND peace with God. It doesn’t depend on failing humanity. No, God says clearly that this covenant depends on Him. That it is a gift. And that this covenant is given to “Israel and Judah”—to the Jews. It’s also given to the rest of us because we, at any time, can be adopted into it.2
C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, writes about how what God showed us through the Jews—that there was only one of Him, and that He cared about us and our ways of life. And then, writes Lewis, “Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. . . .God, in their language, meant the Being outside of the world who had made it.3
Without the Jews, without their laws and sacrifices and history with God, we wouldn’t even understand what this man offers. He offers Himself as a sacrifice. He says that through His blood, forgiveness becomes freely available to a humanity that could never earn it. The Jews understand, if anyone does, that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. This man says that His blood can wash away the sins of anyone. “This makes sense,” says Lewis, “only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded.”4
The writer of Hebrews describes this Jewish man-God as the high priest of the New Covenant. Hebrews echoes Jeremiah in insisting that God will be your God and will remember your sins no more. That He’ll redeem you from the standards you’ve violated. That He’ll put away sin with the sacrifice of His very self. That He brings peace to those who are far away and those who are near, because He gives for all time a single sacrifice for sins.
For some of us, faith is a conscious struggle and a long process. There’s no shame in that. Where there is shame, in my view, is argument about who deserves God more than, or instead of, someone else. None of us deserve it. It’s not a deservable kind of thing. Grace is so much higher than anything we can comprehend, let alone earn. No one need try to replace; no one need worry about being replaced. No. We all just need, that’s all.
We know that the cross has been politicized and fought about and that evil has been done in its name. But look beneath all of that human debris. Look to a Jew who could forgive your sins, because He is both innocent and infinite. The lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Who is the Messiah, if not He?
1 Deuteronomy 30:4 (ESV).
2 Jeremiah 30-33. Isaiah 59:20-21. Ezekiel 36-40. Hebrews 8 and 9 and 10. And many, many more.
3 Pages 54-55. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in human morality and the existence of God. It is a clear and honest and respectful book.