Losing is Gaining
I recently visited Tenth Presbyterian Church for a Sunday morning worship service. It was, for me, both worshipful and nostalgic. I knew it would be. I became a Christian at age 20, as an undergraduate student and started attending “Tenth Pres” on a regular basis. I sat under the expository preaching of James Montgomery Boice, learned historic hymns, and sensed a firming up of my newfound faith for which I continue to grow in gratitude.
But the recent experience at the corner of 17th and Spruce also had a surprise woven in. I started to tell my wife that I always sat up in the balcony as a way of hiding. As a young Jewish believer, I felt (as so many new Jewish believers in Jesus do) that I had become a traitor to my people. Up in the balcony, I could remain anonymous and that helped my feelings of conversion-anxiety.
At Tenth Pres, a section of the balcony was reserved for the choir in the morning and for an orchestra in the evening. (I always attended the evening service because, as I seem to recall, waking up early on a Sunday morning was difficult – for many reasons). When the recent service began, I remembered that I used to love to watch the orchestra play.
A flood of memories and some new insights washed over me during this recent visit. Maybe I wasn’t “hiding” in the balcony. Maybe I chose that seat for its proximity to the orchestra. I also remembered that the conductor of that ensemble, the associate pastor, was also a Jewish believer! Could it be that my Sunday evening worship experiences helped me wrestle with the roles of Judaism and music in my life, now that I had come to believe in Jesus as Lord?
Perhaps this needs a bit of explanation. As a new convert, I thought I had to give up two loves of my life – Judaism and music. I feared that believing in Jesus would require me to become “a gentile” (not a happy prospect) and force me to listen to poorly played, compositionally insipid music. Sitting in the balcony, hearing proficient musicians perform excellent music, conducted by a Jewish man who loved Jesus, soothed and satisfied my concerns about my future faith.
Since that time, I’ve found that I didn’t need to give up my enjoyment of music. But I did have to stop worshipping it. Music is a wonderful gift but a terrible god. And I didn’t (couldn’t!) stop being Jewish. But I do see my Judaism as fulfilled in Jesus – something that enlivens my Judaism and deepens my Christianity.
I wonder how many people feel reluctant to investigate the gospel because they believe they’ll need to give up things they may not need to. To be sure, there are many things people do need to give up when they come to Jesus. But there may be some things God will redeem, rather than eliminate, in the lives of converts.
It may just be that Jesus’ promise, “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:39), may be far more liberating and fulfilling than outsiders think. We should find ways to help people see Jesus’ Lordship as something beautiful and more life-giving than they can imagine.