I was pleasantly surprised when Rachel* phoned to ask that I study the Bible with her. I hadn’t seen much fruit in the three years since she professed faith in Jesus. Rachel always seemed to have one foot in the world and one foot in the faith. She had not responded to previous invitations to study the Bible. Her initiative to get serious about God’s Word indicated that He was at work in her life.
It was good to study the Scriptures with Rachel, but in the course of our conversation, a problem quickly became obvious. Whenever Rachel spoke of anyone who was not Jewish, her tone became angry. There was a degree of hostility that explained, at least in part, why her faith had not yet borne much fruit. As we concluded our visit, I determined to pray for Rachel and to choose a passage of Scripture that would confront her attitude.
The following week, we read Matthew 5:43-48 together:
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
“We all suffer from some form of prejudice,” I told Rachel. “Sometimes it’s racial. Sometimes it’s toward people who have wronged us in some way. We need to pray for them, whether they have actually wronged us, or whether we have simply presumed that they would hurt us if they had a chance.”
I then related to her an experience I’d had several months earlier at a conference. An elderly man came to our book table and gave me a big hug. His name was Otto. He told me how much he loves our work and that he supports Jews for Jesus because he wants to see Jewish people saved.
“But,” he said, “I didn’t always love the Jews. I went to Germany in the thirties and came back a Nazi. I gave up my girlfriend, who was Jewish, and pursued my hatred. Years later, I became a Christian. God spoke to my heart, and I knew that Jesus loves everybody, and I must also.” It was then, Otto said, that he had repented of his prejudice and hatred. With tears in his eyes, he gave me another hug before he left.
Rachel hung her head. She didn’t look up for a few minutes. Then she quietly told me she wanted to repent of her prejudice because she knew that Yeshua didn’t like it. Together we prayed that God would continue to work on both our hearts and that He would cause us to have a desire to be perfect even as He is.
Perhaps it seems like a delayed reaction for someone to repent of so much anger three years after discovering the love of God through Jesus. It is hard to understand why some people seem to change immediately when they come to faith, and others hang back. We may be frustrated when people don’t seem to grow as we think they should, yet God is patiently working in the lives of those who trust in Him. The Lord is so faithful, and it was such a joy to see Him touch Rachel’s heart. Pray that she will continue to grow in the faith and grace of Jesus.
*Because of the nature of this account, we did not use Rachel’s real name.