Beginning at sundown Sunday, Jews around the world will begin celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days. These are the most sacred days to the global Jewish community. Over 10 days – beginning with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) we will enter into days of focused repentance.
While these Jewish holidays may seem foreign to my Christian friends, I want to invite them to find in these holy days a reason to celebrate three virtues shared by Jews and Christians.
These virtues are as foundational and inseparable to the Christian faith as they are to our own. One needs only to remember that the Christian Old Testament is our Hebrew Bible, and concepts like repentance, prayer, and charity – the key themes highlighted throughout these 10 days – are three values we share, partly because we take them from the same source.
When these virtues become practices in our daily lives, we will strengthen our relationship with God and our neighbors.
The first of these pillars is repentance, which is, simply, “getting right with God.”
There’s so much happening in our modern world that constantly distracts us from God and His love; as a result, we often lose our way. Repentance is about taking a moment to examine our hearts and see the places in our lives where God needs to be invited back in.
In the Book of Joel we’re told: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Joel 2:13).
This time of the year, we remember that the God who knows every misstep in our lives has a bottomless storehouse of grace and forgiveness for each and every one of us.
What Joel is also telling us here is that when we take the first step in getting right with God, He is there waiting for us; and not as an angry judge, but as a gracious Father ready to embrace us and welcome his wayward children home.
The second pillar is prayer, communing with God.
Prayer is a direct line to our mighty God, and we can feel confident going to Him with any concern. We take this profound concept for granted so often. We disregard its power but it’s quite remarkable when one stops to think about it.
The very Creator who gave us life and has authority over every living thing in our vast universe actually cares to hear what’s on each and every human’s heart, and He desires for us to constantly and honestly communicate with Him.
King David came to God with everything: joy and sorrow, anger and thanksgiving, praises and concerns. And so can we.
As my Christian friends often say, we can “come boldly” to God’s throne in times of need. What an awesome God we serve that we can come to Him with both the big and the little things! I hope you will be bold with God today, because He is ready to listen.
The third pillar is charity, giving back to God.
When you get right with God, it creates a thankful heart for all He’s done. And a thankful heart is a generous heart: you want to spread God’s love to others.
Spreading God’s love to those in need is what our organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is all about. We’re blessing God’s children in very tangible ways, like supplying food for families throughout these High Holy Days, mainly because of the generosity of Christians.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that God isn’t pleased by an outward display of devotion, but by acts of service like feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
I invite you, Christians (or anyone for that matter), to join me in practicing these three pillars of the High Holy Days – to get right with God, to come humbly before Him in prayer, and to give generously – and then to wait and to see how God richly blesses you.
I KNOW that He will.