Washing the Hands of Your Enemies
by Lonnie Lane
I received an email a little while ago that stirred my heart. The woman who wrote me is German-born, living in America with her second abusive husband. She began to desire to do things like observe Passover and became interested in Jewish things. She began to wonder about some things in her childhood that her mother had said to her. Her mother is now gone, but upon talking with a rabbi, he told her that her mother and her grandmother’s maiden names were both Jewish names. We hear this same story often.
Many Gentile believers who see the value of Hebrew roots would like to find out that they are Jewish. That is a misguided desire because God loves Gentiles just as much as He does Jews. We just have different roles to play. What they are most likely feeling is a stirring in their hearts that comes from the Lord to be involved with what He meant for the church from the beginning, but which was lost when the Jewishness of the Gospel was done away with. God is restoring His foundational ways to the end time church today. That’s what this “one new man” move of God that is happening at this time is all about. And I believe that’s what the stirring in people’s hearts for things Jewish is also about. We must be careful to label what is taking place properly, “for there is no partiality with God” (Rom 2:11) and we are all loved equally.
There is no way for this woman to actually find out if her mother and grandmother were Jewish, but since it seems likely in her case for a few reasons, what she can do is pray as if it were a fact and break the curses that have come into her life which may be due to persecution that came to her previous generations. These could be open doors to abuse. But even if she is not of Jewish lineage, she is suffering from abuse and breaking curses that may have been inherited is a valid thing to do for anyone that is suffering abuse. The sins of one generation do affect succeeding generations, because “the Lord is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Ex 20:5; 34:7; Nu. 14:18; Deut 5:9).
Sin is a violation against holy God! Yeshua paid the price for sins so that in His name when we ourselves repent of our own wrong-doings, we have been given the authority to use His name to break the curses of our ancestors from our lives and our children’s. Israel could not do that, but we who are His can! Some of you may ask, Wasn’t that done at the cross? Yes it certainly was. But if you’ve noticed, satan doesn’t let go easily and tries to keep us in bondage to sin. Remember, he’s a liar and wants to keep you thinking your lot is abuse. It’s not. By praying and cancelling those curses, in Yeshua’s name, we say no to satan. When recurring abuse happens in someone’s life for seemingly no real reason, it is more than likely there are generational causes. We will talk later about how to break those curses.
First here’s another story. I met a very sweet and loving man a few years ago with a thick German accent and a very German name. As he and his wife and I became friends, I learned that he suffers much from insecurity and rejection and related anguishes. Why?, I wondered. What’s behind this? In time, I learned that his mother, who is also in this country, is unkind to him, and doesn’t seem to like him very much; she never has. I started asking him some questions. Come to find out, his father was Jewish and was adopted into this family as a baby, but the fact that he was Jewish was kept a secret. My friend was told of his Jewish background, but was told to never tell anyone he is Jewish. What a surprise to me to find out that he’s Jewish. If his father was, whether he was raised Jewish or not, he’s Jewish! Keeping it a secret would have been a life-saving necessity during Hitler’s regime especially since his mother even worked for the Nazi party at one time. It is possible that she married his father before hatred for the Jews became a national preoccupation, but it seems to have continued in her relationship with her son, despite his and his wife’s attempts as good Christians to bring love and reconciliation into the relationship. The aftermath of the holocaust was still with him.
What I saw on him was that the rejection he carries is not really about him in the here and now, but is a generational curse that is upon him on two accounts: The denial of his father’s Jewishness, and the subsequent rejection from his mother and his country of birth. I began to pray for my friend. While he had already forgiven much, we prayed together as he went through a time of forgiving, being specific about what he was forgiving, rather than just one blanket forgiveness. He forgave the Nazis for the loss of his identity, for having to hide his Jewishness, for the shame, and for the fear, and for all it cost him. He forgave his mother for not loving him as he needed to be loved, and forgave her (his!) family for the rejection he has experienced, for all the rejection toward him. He asked the Lord to forgive his mother for her own unloving spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit whom we asked for help, he was able to find release through addressing these things in this way. Without digging things up, what came to mind was forgiven and released.
We, meaning our pastor and myself (though it could be anyone with the faith who is attempting to walk a righteous life before the Lord), prayed in Yeshua’s name, and broke the generational curses off of his family on both his mother’s and father’s side all the way back to Adam and Eve (as Sid’s guest, Henry Wright* teaches. Why not cover all bases?) We then asked the Lord to help him be aware of when those thoughts of rejection, and insecurity come back and to stay out of agreement with them. They are not from God; they’re from the devil, so he need not accept them as his own thoughts. It would be appropriate to pray something along the lines of, “I am not in agreement with this rejection and abuse; I refuse to accept it. It does not belong to me. I am a child of God and therefore I have the favor of God, in Yeshua’s name.” Be led by the Spirit but stay in agreement with what the Word and God say about who you are in Him.
I have seen this be effective in people’s lives under any kind of abuse. The woman with the abusive husband above may find that going through the same process may help her not remain a victim. She can forgive and come out of agreement that she is worthy of being victimized and keep declaring that she is a cherished daughter of the King and He takes care of His own. What we believe about ourselves begins in our own minds and hearts. She might also want to ask God to forgive her Jewish ancestors for forsaking their Jewishness, regardless of the cause. Anyone denying or turning away from what God made them to be, be it race, ethnicity or gender, is in rebellion against God and it needs to be repented of. Anyone who is being abused may want to go through the same process of repentance and forgiveness, regardless of the cause. It may not stop the abuse right away, but keep praying and staying in agreement with God that you are in His favor and good will come to you. (You may want to pray daily the blessings in Deut. 28:1-14 or other blessings Scriptures for yourself or even for your abuser and watch and see what happens.)
While it may seem remote and unrealistic to someone who has no connection with the holocaust to still be affected by it, there are many Jewish people and numerous Gentiles who may still be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome even though 63 years has gone by since the end of WWII. For those without a personal relationship with the Messiah, the Son of God, there still exists a generation, even a people, who are still traumatized by what happened. Indeed, as anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe today, even as much as it was before the outbreak of WWII in certain countries, the threat is still there, and so is the fear if you don’t know the Lord. If you walk into a Jewish bookstore or look through a Jewish magazine with a book section, you will find up to one third of the books are still about the Shoah, the holocaust, as Jewish people are still dealing with the trauma of it. Elie Wiesel has said that “holocaust” is an inadequate word for what took place, but we have no other word for it.
But for those who have come to know our precious Yeshua, He changes everything. For us, there is more than hope, there is deliverance and freedom. His goodness permeates our lives, and even enables us to obey His word to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44: Luke 6:27; Luke 6:35). Yeshua brings healing to our deepest pain, even when we weren’t aware it was still there. Following is my own story of just such a healing a number of years ago for which I am so grateful to Him.
A service like any other, I thought, as I came into the chapel that morning at the seminary I was a part of. One of the international students opened the service. He talked about the many nations representing people from “corn” nations, “rice” nations and “wheat” nations, describing the various people groups by their main grain source. I listened in pleasant passivity and joined in the singing. We were to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus” in Tamil, the national language of India, to represent the rice nations, and in Spanish to represent the corn nations. My ethnocentricity caused me to expect that, of course, the wheat language would be English, but I was taken aback to find that we were to sing—in German! Suddenly my stress level increased greatly. The enjoyable moment flashed into one in which I felt threatened, frightened, and suddenly alienated from the group with whom I’d felt no self-consciousness moments before, despite being the only Jewish person I knew of in the room. I also felt confused and shocked at my own revulsion of that language. I found I was unable to sing, even to mouth the words transliterated before me, as the language was a symbol to me of all that was fearful to me.
“Lord, forgive me for what I’m feeling,” I prayed silently. I had consciously forgiven the German people for the Holocaust when I became a believer, wanting in every way to follow the Lord. Now I was finding myself unable to “follow Jesus” in the singing of this song. Finally the song ended, but I was still miserable. Now we were to take communion together. The communion “bread” would be of rice, corn and wheat and three people, one from each representative nation, would serve it to us. The three rose and stood before us. Nearest to me stood Peter, one of the professors and a German, holding a tray of wheat bread. Each in turn prayed and when Peter prayed, instead of closing my eyes I stared at his head bowed before God and listened as he tenderly prayed in German. I could understand most of what he said as German is very close to the Yiddish spoken by my grandparents. I realized I had never heard anyone actually pray in German before. I had mostly heard it in WWII movies when it spoke harshness and destruction to my people. But never before in humility before God. The image of this humble Peter came crashing up against the stereotypes now running rampant through my thoughts.
My mind reeled; I felt nauseous. Stunned by the depth of emotion within me I numbly took a piece of bread from the tray when it came to me. At that moment, even this seemed alien to me. In my congregation we used matzo for Communion. Communion to me meant matzo, just as German to me meant Nazis. I was being challenged at my core with what the symbol of the communion bread represented to me. This was to be a communal act acknowledging that we all have been forgiven for our sins, even German sins. What was I to do?
While others slipped the bread into their mouths I sat with it burning in my fist, knowing I could not possibly partake of it with this bitterness in my heart. I wanted to run away. Surely the service would be over in a matter of minutes. But the speaker came before us again and explained that the two large glass bowls filled with water at either end of the long table up front were for the purpose of washing each other’s feet, only we would be washing hands, not feet. Towels were provided for drying. We were to go up in pairs corn, rice and wheat folks, all sharing the experience together. It was to be an act of true humility both to wash and to be washed, a submission one to another.
I sat and watched as two-by-two people approached the water bowls and proceeded to wash one another’s hands. God began to knock on the door of my heart. I became aware that He was telling me I needed to be cleansed but it would have to be by the hands of a German and I needed to wash his hands as well. My face burned with humiliation at the thought of approaching a German to ask him to do this with me. My heart was pounding, but I knew I had to approach Peter. Still I sat riveted to my chair, fighting humiliation, fear, embarrassment and possible rejection from a German! But I knew that if I walked out of the chapel without submitting to God on this I would carry the bitterness with me. I desperately wanted to be free of it, but most of all I was determined to obey God at any cost. I would fully follow Jesus as the song we had just sung said.
I stood up and walked to where Peter was then sitting on an aisle seat and knelt down and quietly asked if he, as a German person, and I as a Jew, could go through this hand washing together as a symbolic gesture for healing in my own life. Without hesitation he looked at me and said, “I’d like to do that.” I wondered if he himself welcomed the chance for such a reconciliation in the Lord with a Jewish person.
We were among the last to approach the water bowl. Peter took my hands in his own his German hands and lowered them into the bowl and rather than dipping them into the water he bathed my hands, scooping water onto mine with his and gently washing every finger, and between, as if he were wiping away a deep imbedded dirt that easily slid off my hands once it came in contact with his hands. Then he took the towel and gently wiped every part of my hands, one finger at a time, and between, until I was dry. I felt myself relax my hyper-vigilance as Peter took on more and more the character of a person rather than “a German.” I then repeated the same process, washing his hands, his German hands, which had now become to me as Jesus’ hands, as they had just cleansed me of my sin of bitterness. I dried Peter’s hands as he had dried mine, then lifted my eyes to his and said, “Amen.” We sealed it with a kiss as brother and sister for whom the middle wall had indeed been taken down by the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6) and then walked back to our seats.
I sat for only a moment until I knew I was about to fall apart. I grabbed my jacket and walked out as quickly and as inconspicuously as I could and headed out the door to the cover of a small grove of trees nearby and there I sobbed my heart out to the Lord. I released to Him all that I didn’t know had still been in my heart as each aspect came to the surface: The rage at being totally subjugated by those whose enjoyment had been our suffering; the profound frustration at the impotency against such cruelty by the hands yes the hands of those who were unmoved by our excruciating pain, unbearable grief and unending terror. And when that was done, I wept deeply with great sorrow over the loss of the lives of so many of my people and others and the succeeding generations that would never be. It all came pouring out of me as I stumbled among the trees, releasing to God all my agony over the incalculable loss and pain. I cried until the storm was over.
This experience went to the very core of my being. Despite a mental choice to forgive when I met the Lord, this now came from a heart of forgiveness for those who had been my enemies. I tasted of the release Yeshua died to give to us at a level I had not known before. I learned an important lesson: No amount of abuse is beyond the forgiveness of the Lord. What took place that day left me with a sense of trust in God that I could experience the deepest of pains and come out whole when I follow His ways. Had I not obeyed Him that day, I don’t know what would have happened to me. Perhaps He would have given me another opportunity, but had He not, I suspect I would not have given myself the chance to get to know the German man who became my friend in church. I would have missed the chance to find out that he too was Jewish, and I would not have been able to be an instrument for God to bring deeper forgiveness and healing for my friend. Not only was I healed the day when Peter and I washed each other’s hands, but seeds for healing others in this way were planted in my soul that day as well. Perhaps some of you reading this are among them. Yeshua, knowing Judas would betray Him washed his feet. Should we do less? May you find rest for your souls in the forgiveness of your enemies. Amen.
Reprints of this article is permitted but must include: Reprinted by permission of Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2008
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.