A Crisis of Conscience in Jerusalem
I was doing everything in my power to appear calm, collected, and confident.
But internally I was fighting a war.
We were minutes away from taking the stage in the heart of Jerusalem for an historic collaboration between the Christian and Orthodox Jewish communities, and I was deeply conflicted.
Not about the collaboration – that was the thrilling part. Gifted speakers and musicians had gathered in Jerusalem to represent both communities in a “Song of Ascents” event, where we would recite and discuss Psalms 120-134 as an interfaith community with hundreds of diverse attenders. While to many Western Christians this might seem like a small thing, for the Orthodox Jewish community, this would be an unprecedented step of trust. The Israeli musicians were phenomenally talented – they had received us graciously, and we were looking forward to sharing the stage with them.
My inner conflict centered around our ability to share the love of Jesus in this environment. I knew how important it was to honor our dear Jewish friends – it would be crucial to build bridges of trust with this community that the Christian church has deeply wounded over the years. At the same time, our mandate as a ministry has always been to share the simple message of the freedom available through Jesus at every event we play.
The guidelines were firm – nothing was to be shared outside of the parameters of the program – and the stakes were high.
I had been praying about it all day, and I had no idea what to do.
Jerusalem traffic worked in my favor, delaying the event by nearly 30 minutes, but by the time the event began, I was still no closer to a solution.
Introductions were made, words were spoken, and then our Israeli counterparts, the “Portnoy Brothers,” performed a version of Psalm 122 that was nothing short of phenomenal.
Of course I was powerfully impressed, but full disclosure as a musician means admitting that I was now concerned about TWO things – now I was concerned about my initial crisis of conscience AND making sure that our performance wasn’t completely anti-climactic after their incredible showing.
By the time we were invited onto the stage, I was a mess on the inside, but I greeted the crowd with a smile.
We introduced ourselves and performed a version of Psalm 124 that we had written several days earlier in our hotel in Bethlehem.
And the interfaith, multi-ethnic crowd responded, singing loudly and worshipping with genuine emotion.
I was deeply touched, and when we had finished, I glanced over to the host of the event, an engaging Rabbi from Jerusalem. His nervousness had been obvious at the start of the evening, stemming from a desire to avoid any number of possible offenses and potential diplomatic faux pas, but now he was beaming, shaking his head and gesturing with two enthusiastic thumbs up.
As soon as I had leaned back into my seat, a close friend leaned over and whispered into my ear: “Dude, this is amazing. Look around, it’s totally like what I imagine heaven is gonna look like, right?”
And I had to agree with him.
And the rest of the night, felt much the same way – with more encouraging words from the Psalms, more music from the Israeli team and us, and more powerful response from the crowd. Over the course of the evening, we alluded to our experience with Christ, but chose to honor our hosts and not cross the lines to which we had agreed.
Bridges of relationship were built and strengthened, walls of distrust came down, and our entire team agreed that it would’ve been impossible to attend this event without sensing that there was SOMETHING different about this evening.
And the difference of course, was the very real Spirit of God.
I went to sleep later that night having made some awesome Orthodox Jewish friends and having shared an incredible experience with people from all over the world.
But I woke the next morning early, feeling disturbed.
Had I made the right decision?
I was pretty sure that this would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime exception to our rule of sharing the simple Gospel at every event.
But I couldn’t seem to shake the image of a Rabbi I had met the night before: he had been sitting in the front row watching us the entire night, and I couldn’t seem to stop asking myself, “What if he never hears the SIMPLE message of Jesus? Of course he can choose how he wants to respond, but what if he never HEARS it?”
I wrestled with this thought for some time, and then headed to breakfast with the team, where I shared my concern.
One of my friends heard this and spoke up quickly: “Oh, that Rabbi? Yeah, I loved that guy – I sat next to him the whole night and we got a chance to talk about Jesus for quite awhile. He’s an awesome guy – so kind – and we’re definitely going to be praying for him.”
And somewhere inside, I breathed a sigh of relief.
He had gotten a chance to HEAR the message of Jesus – from someone that loved him.
God had made sure the message was shared to this man that He loved so desperately – now it was his choice to respond as he wished, but He had HEARD the message of Jesus’ love for Him.
And this… is why we do what we do.
Over the course of our time in Israel and the West Bank, we saw hundreds of people from many different backgrounds respond to the incredible, life-changing message of Jesus, and we were deeply impacted by the love of God for these beautiful people.
We’ve also had the privilege of watching God move powerfully over the last year. We saw thousands respond to Jesus in twelve nations and territories on five continents – now we’re just finishing up a packed few months of events in Israel, the West Bank, and across the American Midwest, and we’re preparing for some exciting opportunities to share the love of Jesus in France, Belize, Pakistan, and beyond. THANK YOU for helping us share the love of Jesus worldwide.
Our vision is to follow God’s leading and help reach as many nations and people as we can with the message of Jesus, and your partnership helps us reach the world together. If you’d like to help, click HERE to partner financially and follow us on FACEBOOK for daily prayer updates from the field. Thank you so much, friends, and God bless you! You can also listen to our latest CD, LOVE IS WIDE on ITUNES or SPOTIFY. Also JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – CLICK HERE for our full 2017 Ministry Report. Check it out and enjoy!
Zach and White Ribbon Day
Also, check out our just-released acoustic collaboration with HISPOP HERE - filmed live in Malta!