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Jewish Roots and the Fruits of Faith

I think that sometimes people expect a certain plot line for stories like this. How some crisis precipitated a low point that led to a sudden, transforming decision. But the story of my decision to believe that Jesus is the Messiah came in stages; in different ways at different times in my life.

It began in childhood with my parents’ messy divorce. My mother lost custody, although we had regular visits – but the results of the legal battle left her badly depressed. Then one day, while she was riding on a city train in Chicago, she was befriended by someone who would have a profound impact on our lives. Josh Wiggins was an African-American believer and, as he tells it, the Spirit of God simply directed him to speak with the obviously unhappy woman sitting across from him.

Unexpected Friendship

My mom and Josh became friends and would meet at De Paul University every week; and every week, Josh would gently unfold the message of the Messiah to her. Sensitive to her Jewish background, he often used the Hebrew Scriptures to make his case. And I think that the Scriptures that address the suffering of the Messiah, such as Isaiah 53, really touched her. These things, combined with the love and compassion of Josh, led her to make the decision to believe.

It was a costly choice. Her parents, with whom she was living in Skokie, were furious and tossed her out. So she and Josh, Josh’s wife, Liz, and their three daughters, decided to share a home.

Meanwhile, I was living with my father, which was all right. But from then on, for about the next three years, every other weekend when I would visit my mom, I would go to worship services and Bible studies. Then, on Mother’s Day in 1979, with as much understanding as I could find in my eight-year-old life, I accepted the Messiah.

Now, I benefited from two things. The first was that my father did not try to undermine my decision. The second thing is that my Jewish relatives blamed my mother and not me for what I had done. So, I continued to have the benefits of an extended Jewish family while the “Christian” part of me was also being nourished.

Only when I became older did I realize that the Jewish part and the Christian part were not separate compartments, but were actually part of the same thing.

Thinking It Through

This coincided with the second stage of my growth. For although I had believed as a child, I was beginning to think like an adult. In high school, I started to ask questions. Is the Bible reliable? Can I really trust that Jesus is the Messiah? And after what I believe was a thorough examination of the facts, I found that the answer was, “Yes.”

There is nothing contradictory about maintaining a Jewish heritage and embracing faith in Jesus as Messiah. And the memories I carry from my tangled childhood and the mixture of Jewish tradition and Messianic faith have proven to be a soil in which I am able to thrive.

Written by Justin Kron

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