So today I want to talk about what I really did convert from.
Yes, I’m a Christian who was born Jewish – and many people misinterpret that as: oh, she converted from the Jewish religion to the Christian religion. As if Jesus was some guy who came to found a new religion. As if he wasn’t the Jewish Messiah, come to fulfil the prophecies and do what Jews had been waiting for!
And anyway, I wasn’t religious to start with! I was a secular agnostic, living pretty much in accordance with the priniciples I’d absorbed from secular society around me – including even my own mother, who taught me: do what you like as long as you don’t hurt anyone.
Though actually I did sometimes hurt other people – and sometimes I even felt good about it, relishing the enjoyment of getting my own back, of wittily putting someone in their place.
I did do some things that my mother wouldn’t have approved of, like lying and stealing – and in my own mind I had good reasons. (The stealing was out of desperation, and somehow I felt it was ok to steal from a faceless shop.)
The principle of “do what you like as long as you don’t hurt anyone” is one I really only applied in one context: the context of sexual behaviour. And even then – can I really claim I didn’t hurt a person I’d used for sexual gratification and then discarded? Or a person I enjoyed sexual intimacy with as part of a loving relationship, but then decided they’re not really right for me and moved on? I know how hurt I was when people did that to me, so no, I can’t pretend I’ve never hurt anyone in that way.
So, you see, when I came to faith in Jesus, there were plenty of things in my life that I had to repent of – being Jewish was not one of them! There’s nothing wrong with being Jewish, nothing sinful about it, nothing that God has a problem with – on the contrary! Since I’ve been born again God has made me appreciate my Jewishness in a way that I never did before! No, coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah does not mean you have to let go of your Jewish identity – what you have to let go of when you come to faith in Jesus is your sinful rebellion against God, your attempt to live life without acknowledging him as your rightful Lord, without accepting that God’s ways are best, and without turning to Jesus as the only way of salvation!
It was, in my case, a long journey – a long and winding path, with lots of thorns along the way. It took me over 12 years from meeting Jesus and falling in love with him, to actually finally realising what it meant that he’s the Saviour, giving my whole life over to him and being born again. Over that time he was working on different aspects of my life and changing me – starting from teaching me kindness and honesty, and only years down the line getting through to me about sexual morality. I think it’s because when I first met him I was so so so far from being ready to even contemplate the idea that God might have something to say about that – and I think for many of you reading this, that idea probably seems just as crazy and far-fetched as it seemed to me back then, and I’m not going to try and unpack it here and now. It’s a big, complex issue and one that took me a long time to begin to understand.
All I want to say for now is: God is our Creator and he absolutely 100% knows what’s best for us. If he says “don’t do x” then you might not understand why but you absolutely can trust him that he knows what he’s talking about.
And whatever kinds of sin are in your life, you’re not beyond God’s love. He reached out to me when I was a liar and a thief and a person living in a sinful relationship, and he kept his loving hand on me throughout those years even while I still had one foot firmly in the world of sexual “do what you like” – and eventually he brought me out of that, and cleansed me from all the muck that had stuck to me along the way. This is part of why I love Jesus so much! And it’s why I so love this bit from the Bible:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
P.S. “such were some of you” – that refers to our sinful behaviour and attitudes, not to things we have no control over, like the colour of our eyes or which gender we feel attracted to. We don’t get to choose what particular kind of temptation will be part of our lives – only how we’ll respond to that temptation. If you’re attracted to people of your own gender, here’s a really good website I’d recommend, where you can find real support from Christians who live with same-sex attraction: Living Out
(Me? my own sinful behaviour involved both genders. Not that it particularly matters – sin is sin, and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross works for all different kinds of sin! It’s just that it took me ages to realise that it really was sin!)