Grieving the Heart of Jesus: Anti-Semitism In the Church
By Geri Ungurean
Twelve years ago, my husband and I attended a Baptist church. We loved it there. It was like our second home.
My husband and I were very involved with the music ministry. The choir director was retiring, so the church decided to hire an interim replacement. What happened next was truly shocking.
We were sitting behind the new music minister before service, and my husband struck up a conversation with him. I will never forget what was said. During the conversation, my husband told him that I was a Jewish believer in Christ. The man turned to me and said:
“Your people think that they have the corner on every market.”
I was so stunned by this remark that I was speechless. My husband clearly heard what this man had said. Neither of us responded to it. I wish we had responded right when he said it.
We went to our deacon about what had happened. He was shocked and he told us that the head pastor needed to know about this. There was to be a business meeting the next Sunday, and the congregation was going to vote on whether to give the new music director a contract. Our deacon stressed the importance of our pastor knowing about this man and what he had said.
The Call to our Pastor
We called our pastor and told him what had transpired. He acted shocked, and told us that we needed to call this man and ask why he would say such a thing. He gave us his number.
We called the man – my husband was on the line with me. We asked him why he would say such an anti-Semitic thing to me. He was enraged. He denied ever saying it. He was yelling at us – saying that we made this up. My husband told him that we both heard it clearly. The man continued his rant. Finally, we said goodbye to him. The yelling and screaming was not what we expected. I even thought that perhaps he would apologize. If that had happened, I would have forgiven him immediately.
We called our pastor back and told him what had happened during the call. We told him that this man flatly denied saying this to us. Pastor said to me “Well, it’s his word against yours.” My husband said to pastor: “I heard it too – clear as a bell.” To that pastor responded “You don’t count; you’re her husband.” My husband told our pastor that we would not be able to continue to worship the Lord in this church. The pastor said “Well, that is your choice.”
I was absolutely crushed. I thought that the pastor considered us part of his flock.
It was clear that losing us as members of his church was less important than securing a leader for our music. The music ministry was very dynamic, and maybe pastor thought that he would lose people if the ministry did not flourish.
I was so hurt by these events, but also I felt that the congregation needed to know who they would be hiring. I sent out an email to many in the congregation and told them what had happened and why we had to leave. In retrospect, I feel that I should not have done that. It was an impulsive move on my part, and it came out of feeling so betrayed.
I’ve spoken in other articles about the anti-Semitism I experienced in the world. I learned to expect that. The Jewish people are hated by many in this world. But the words of the music minister crushed me. And the reaction and response of our pastor crushed me even more.
Ironically, the new interim music minister broke his contract with the church within a few months.
Just a few years after we had left the church, we returned to attend a funeral. The daughter of friends of ours had been struck by a vehicle, and she and her boyfriend were killed. We felt so welcomed by so many people at the funeral. They said how much they missed us. I saw the wife of an assistant pastor and went to give her a hug. I said to her that my husband and I were thinking of coming back. She backed off and said to me that she didn’t think that the head pastor would want us back. I felt like my heart broke inside my chest. This woman did not know that we saw the head pastor at a meeting of SBC pastors; and that I had gone up to this man and had given him a hug and said that all was well.
The Pastor and his Sin
We all have sin, even after we are born again – we have sin in our lives. We are still in these bodies of flesh, and the flesh wars against the spirit. But the Lord tells us in His Word:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
We found out years after we had left that church, that the pastor had been found to have an innapropriate relationship with a woman he was counseling. The deacons told the pastor that they wanted him to step down for a year from his position. He refused, and took half of the congregation with him. He started a new church.
Returning to the Church
Last Sunday, my husband and I decided we would return to this church. We took our grandson with us. We felt a certain coldness -though not from everyone. There was one gentleman who was so glad to see us and showed much love to us. But he was the only one.
I asked for prayer on FB from my brothers and sisters in Christ. I said that my husband and I needed to hear from the Lord on a matter of great importance to us. Many prayed for us. And I do believe that we heard the Lord’s answer.
A brother in Christ wrote that “forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation.” I believe that is true for us on this earth. Reconciliation would be best, but there are times when the Lord does break off relationships. He is omniscient and sees the future. He always knows what is best for us. But forgiveness is so vitally important to Him.
I am grateful that forgiveness does mean reconciliation when we are born again and reconciled to the Father!
I know that when we are in heaven, I will see many of the people who did not welcome us back to the church. But you know what? I think that God will wipe away these memories, just as He wipes our tears away.