(BNC) by Greg Wanderman — Rent-A-Jew. That’s what it said. At first I thought, it must be a Mel Brooks joke. Then it seemed downright offensive. Then, after careful consideration, I decided to take a closer look. Now, I say, “Bold move, Germany.” Despite your, eh, “checkered past,” you might be on to something.

The “Rent-a-Jew” program is a joint effort by Germany’s Justice Ministry and Jewish volunteers. The efforts are aimed at stemming a rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and especially in Germany. It may be hard to believe, but 2015 saw a rise from 691 to 2,083 cases of hate-crimes and hate speech against Jews in Germany. It seems that Germany needs a bit of a refresher.

Enter the “Rent-a-Jew” program. A free service, it offers non-Jews an opportunity to sit down, face-to-face with a Jewish person and get to know them. Germany has a population of 81 million, but only 200,000 Jewish people. Most Germans don’t even know any Jews; yet, anti-Semitism is on the rise! In a lighthearted way, organizers hope to remove prejudice through dialogue. After all, hating others is easier when you don’t actually know them!

Almost 2,000 years ago, many people hated another Jew, without ever meeting Him. But many who had face-to-face encounters with Jesus were changed for the better. Knowing people can make a world of difference.

Jesus commanded Christians to do likewise: be in the world, but not of it. In other words, go out there and meet people! It doesn’t mean watering down adherence to the truth — Jesus didn’t.

But when we interact with people, we have a chance to grow friendships. We can learn to appreciate the needs, desires, and struggles of others. Our Creator loves each of us. And knowing others gives us a greater chance to teach about the hope we have in us.

So… “Rent-a-Christian?” It could work! After all, striving to follow Christ has become increasingly rare! Perhaps Christians aren’t as prevalent as previously thought. Therefore, “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14) and let others know we are His by our love (John 13:35).

Greg works with the Clover SC congregation. Reprinted from his weblog.