Tree of Life

by Matt Allhands

A couple of years ago I turned on the news and saw that a well-known Jewish cemetery had been vandalized. I pondered over who would do such a thing, I thought about how my own Christian faith called me to offer some support for the harassed community. Once I arrived at the cemetery I thought of my Jewish father in law, Stu and wondered “how would he receive this news?” I thought of conversations with my wife and her awareness of the Holocaust as a child. 

Several months later, in Charlottesville droves of Nazi’s marched through the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us.” My daughters played around the kitchen table while I watched the sub-titled vitriol run across my computer screen. I wondered if there was a progression between the two events, what our girls’ lives would be like, I wondered how somebody could feel hatred for them and our family. That year we bought a Menorah, celebrated Chanukah. We began to think through how to help our daughters embrace their heritage and faith in meaningful ways; all the while Anti-Semitic demonstrations popped up across the country. I saw the hatred of these demonstrations protected by Police officers, as if violence would not be the inevitable result of our social tolerance for these ideals.

It was a hard news day today as we heard of the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue. I found myself thinking: "Maybe this was a random shooting" as if that would be better. My wife looked me in the eyes and calmly reminded me of how unlikely that would be. Shortly after that, I read the words shouted by Robert Bowers while he opened fire:
"All Jews must die." 
Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to the friends and families of those who were lost today as well as those who feel targeted and intimidated because of their ethnicity and religion. We look towards God's justice and pray for the sort of Divine mercy and perfect love that can turn a man such as Mr. Bowers from his blind hatred. Only when we realize that Jesus has died for these things that cause such injury and offence can we forgive those mean us harm, only then can we really love and pray for those who persecute us.

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever. (ESV)


Matt Allhands holds his M.Div. from Covenant Seminary and currently resides in St. Louis with his wife and children.

Ruthie Vincill