Jews and Christians both hear the call to be active in "the care and redemption of all that God has made" and can collaborate in such efforts.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
- Jeremiah 29:7
The world and human society are not what they could be. Both Jews and Christians find in the Bible a witness to the reality that something has gone wrong with God’s good creation, something that God is working to remedy. Both Jews and Christians feel called to participate in that work. Christians dedicate themselves to "the care and redemption of all that God has made," and Jews commit themselves to tikkun olam–mending (or healing, or repairing) the world.
For Christians, the gift of the Holy Spirit gives us power and wisdom to live rightly and be a blessing to the world. For Jews, the inborn "good impulse" of human beings offsets an opposing "evil impulse" that leads us to sin; by following the good impulse, a Jew will lead a more upright life and add to the world’s betterment. For both Christians and Jews, being "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6, I Peter 2:9) means bearing responsibility to use God's gifts for the good of the world.
Martin Luther spoke of God working among us in two ways–in a spiritual realm ruled by Christ and the law of love, and in a worldly realm ruled by human powers and laws of justice. Some Lutherans have misunderstood this "two-kingdoms" teaching to mean that Christians have no special role to play in the worldly realm (human society) as long as they are good citizens and proclaim the gospel for individual salvation. At its worst, this misunderstanding has allowed Lutherans to participate in the most repressive regimes and programs.
In the last century, many Lutherans and other Christians both acquiesced to and collaborated in the Nazi efforts to annihilate the Jewish people (the Holocaust, or Shoah(1)). Surely this catastrophe was a grievous wound in God’s creation, one for which healing must still be sought. In similar ways, the persisting problem of race relations in United States and the worldwide ecological crisis are vital arenas in which Christians and Jews can work together.
In this matter, we can learn much from Jewish teaching and heritage. In many times and places, one finds leading examples of Jews who devoted their lives to improving the society in which they lived. One stream of Jewish messianic thought envisions the messiah coming only when Israel has fulfilled its role as witness to God's will. Such a belief ties together the task of healing the world (tikkun olam) with the hope of complete redemption in a very powerful way.
Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
- Amos 5:24
Questions for Discussion
"Talking Points" is a set of eight leaflets issued by the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations to set forth propositions for discussion and debate on topics in Christian-Jewish relations. These Talking Points are not intended as position papers, but as discussion starters, with the hope of eliciting a broad range of responses to the point as stated in the box above. See below for information on how to offer feedback.
Prepared by the Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations of the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
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Read further information on Jewish-Christian relations. See also the comprehensive set of resources on the ecumenical Web site http://www.jcrelations.net
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