I asked David*, an unsaved Jewish man we’ve befriended through our Skokie office, to meet with me. David’s sister Susan* is a believer. I told him that this issue of Havurah was about encouraging Jewish believers to keep sharing their faith with their families and that I wanted to ask him how Susan’s beliefs had impacted his life.
MM: What have you grown to appreciate about your sister as you’ve seen her follow the Lord these past few years?
David: Susan always tries to be helpful and has been learning to give of herself. She’s become more responsible and pays more attention to her family. She’s more disciplined in what she says. She’s helped to bring about peace within our family. A few years ago, when I was divorced, Susan made sure that I was invited to family dinners and wasn’t left out.
MM: Obviously you’ve seen some good changes in Susan in recent years. What was it like when she first told you about her faith? How did you respond?
David: It caused a veritable uproar in our family! She was on a mission to get us all saved.
MM: Since then, have you ever found yourself in the position of defending your sister and her beliefs even though they’re not yours?
David: I’ve defended Susan to our brother and to other family members who have criticized her. Her faith has changed her; it’s made her a good person. There was a time when people didn’t want to be around her because she was very vocal about her views. I was one of those people for a while. To this day, my brother still doesn’t want to be around her.
MM: Has there been anything, specifically, in which you saw a direct connection between her faith and her actions in recent years?
David: Yes, she has a really difficult job at a hospital, involved in the wellness care of the patients. She used to tell me that it wasn’t really necessary to work, that God could just drop down manna on your plate if He wanted to. Now she not only works for a living, but her job involves some demanding responsibilities in which she really has to give of herself.
MM: Between the two of you, who had a deeper commitment and understanding of your Jewish identity while growing up?
David: I think I did. Our mother made sure I was the one who went to yeshiva, Talmud Torah and became bar mitzvah. This might have been because I was the oldest son and was raised under my grandparents’ influence, still in a kosher home. Susan’s Jewish upbringing was not as pronounced. But when she discovered Jesus, that radically changed! Besides alienating half the known universe in our family with her beliefs, she also became more involved with her Jewishness.
MM: Between the two of you, who had a deeper sense of interest in seeking spiritual things?
David: I always used to tell Susan when she first became a believer, Listen, I talk to God everyday and in all my talks with Him, He’s never told me that He wants me to do business with His Son.” But at some point I think I began to have an intellectual awakening about spiritual things. I began getting into arguments with Jewish people around the Humboldt Park area. We’d talk about angels. I would say, “Did Moses part the Red Sea on his own? Was Abraham just doing good tricks to show God he was serious? Maybe it’s not so hard to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” But I know that that was really only an intellectual pursuit.
MM: This is the $64,000 question: Where do you think you are in your search to allow Jesus to be your Messiah, too?
David: I can honestly say that perhaps Jesus is who He says He is, but I don’t pray to Him, mainly because I don’t pray much these days. I try to do good things, mitzvot, and live honestly. But the reason I’m interested in studying the Bible and visiting different churches and congregations with Susan is because I feel a lack someplace inside, spiritually.
But I know that I’m not following Jesus like my sister is. Emotionally, I have not given myself to Him—not yet. God has been saying something to me for a long time, He is protecting me for some reason. I almost died of cancer; I’ve come close to death a number of times. I’m a straight shooter, so it’s hard for me to pick up on gentle hints. I know I’m lacking a passion for Him, a sense of personal conviction.
Still, there’s something that keeps me wanting to schlep along with Susan to different places to hear about Jesus.
Postscript: In a subsequent phone conversation, I challenged David that he knew enough about Yeshua to make a decision to follow Him. I told him that perhaps God had kept him alive all these years for a particular purpose, and that now was the time to open a line of communication with Him. David agreed with me, but when I asked, “Would you like to pray with me right now over the phone?” he responded with a loud “No!” However, a week later he came to our Skokie office to borrow a Bible. Keep looking forward with us as God continues His good work in David’s life.
* not their real names