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Why Christians Should Agree with Jews' Disinterest in Heaven and Hell


I didn't realize it, but apparently my son asked a theological question that divides Christians and Jews. Only fourteen at the time, and obviously contemplating the tempting life of a teenager looming before him, the boy asked,

"If there is no heaven, would being a Christian still be worth it?" He went on trying to clarify, "I mean, what if we're all wrong? What if when we die there is no heaven? Would you be sorry that..."

"Sorry I didn't have 'fun'?"  I interrupted.

"Well, yeah," he said sheepishly.

To his surprise my answer was an emphatic "Yes." I didn't become a Christian for the gold star at the end of the day or a mansion in the clouds for that matter.

In this week's reading of Shmuley Boteach's Kosher Jesusthe rabbi spends several chapters explaining why Jews can never accept Christ in the manner Christians do. He states that the differences between Christianity and Judaism could fill volumes. I get that, and have no interest in debating or highlighting our theological differences. Rather, it's my intention to find common ground and promote our shared values.

Boteach cites a separation between the faiths,

"Christianity is extremely concerned with heaven and the afterlife. This urgency entails a list of things people can do to ensure that they receive the best rewards in the world to come. This is very different from Judaism, which focuses almost exclusively on proper behavior in this world."

I see an opportunity for unity. It's tempting to divide Christians and Jews along these lines. However, it is an unnecessary division. Here is where we can learn something from the Jewish side of the family.