Triggers for Jewish Gentile Couples Part 1By: Tuvya Zaretsky
We’re sitting in a coffee shop, all three of us. Joel is Jewish. His girlfriend is Patricia, a Gentile Christian. I was there, at their invitation. They needed help from someone who could be a translator or an arbitrator. They were having an ongoing cross-cultural argument.
“I’m not even sure I should be with him, because he’s an unbeliever.” I looked at Patricia, as she said those words and wondered if they made Joel as uncomfortable as they made me. I could see his reaction in that moment, frustration and then a slight stiffening. His spirituality was being judged.
I wondered whether Patricia had considered how those words sounded to Joel who was sitting right there. So, I invited him to respond. He said, “That’s not really fair. I am a believer. I do believe in God. Maybe not in the same way she believers, but I do believe in God.” I operate on the assumption that all communication is cross-cultural. And at that moment I felt empathy for both of them.
Patricia was expressing an honest concern about potential damage she might cause to her spiritual relationship with Jesus. She was questioning the wisdom of opening her life to include someone who didn’t share her faith. Patricia saw it wasn’t fair to Joel and was likely going to be spiritually unhealthy for her. But that wasn’t what Joel heard.
Using the word unbeliever in that conversation was a trigger that made him feel judged. Patricia didn’t understand that. Joel saw himself as a believer in the only way he knew how. He did, in fact, have a belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was an open-minded seeker. Later, I had wonderful conversations with Joel, based on his desire to know more about God. Though he and Patricia went separate ways, he eventually understood and embraced the same things she believed.