It’s a modern miracle that Jewish identity persisted even after losing their home country to live in various nations all over the globe. A great example of preserving their cultural identity is the reintroduction of the Hebrew language. The process of the Hebrew language revival began on October 13, 1881, as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his friends agreed to exclusively speak Hebrew in their conversations. As a result, the language, which had not been spoken as a mother tongue since the second century CE, once again became the national language of Israel.
To protect their integrity, Jewish upbringing emphasized separation: stay away from that, avoid mingling with these. This approach served two purposes:
- Maintain Jewish identity;
- Avoid disintegrating into foreign cultures
While this protective mode has worked very well to survive all kinds of cultural invasions, the same approach has a tendency to isolate. When Jesus came along He mingled with everybody, He did not stay away from foreigners, outsiders, and He had relations with all sorts of troubled people; this was highly counter-cultural!
What is easier: to learn something new or to unlearn something? I believe both can be hard, but unlearning a bad habit can be a lot harder, especially unlearning prejudice. Jesus carried no baggage. There is no labeling or defensiveness in the Son of God. Learning to let go of our baggage will immensely contribute to removing walls that we put between ourselves and our neighbor.
Paul recognized that in his letter he wrote to his friends in Galatia, which is modern-day Turkey. He encouraged to reach out rather than to stay away from troubled people. He encouraged to build bridges rather than to burn them. Let’s keep that in mind as we embrace today!