The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Judaism & Christianity

Challenge for sibling religions is to move from rivalry to new respect

As a Lutheran growing up in Seguin, Texas, I had little awareness of Judaism. I loved the Sunday school Bible stories of Abraham and Sarah’s journey to a new land, the Exodus from Egypt, and King David and his psalms. I knew Jesus and the Apostle Paul were Jews.

But my grasp of Judaism after the biblical period was limited and typical, I think, of most Christians since encounters between us and Jews are rare in many places, including many small towns. There are only an estimated 15 million Jews in the world, with 5 million in Israel and another 5 million in metropolitan New York City, compared with 2 billion Christians across the globe.

Many Jews, like this son and father,
Many Jews, like this son and father, read from the Torah in their homes during weekly observances and holidays.
A turning point for me—and the beginning of a lifelong exploration of Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations—came one Christmas Eve during my college years. My grandmother related that her father who was a Lutheran pastor in Texas had been born into a Jewish family from Lemberg, Austria (today, Lviv in Ukraine).

Often it’s this kind of personal link that motivates interest in interreligious matters. I maintain that all Christians have a unique bond with the Jewish people. Judaism and Christianity developed as sibling religions over the centuries. Jews and Christians are so intertwined in their origins and history, as well as in scriptures, religious concepts and practices, that Christianity can’t be understood without reference to Judaism.

Our challenge is to transform this relationship from rivalry and estrangement to new respect and love. This requires serious effort.

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February issue


Embracing diversity