What exactly is Elul and why should Christians care?
In the Hebrew calendar, Elul is the name of the month that comes before the fall feasts. It is the time leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Traditionally, it is remembered as the time God gave Moses the second set of tablets and forgave the people for the sin of the golden calf.
So what, if anything, does this have to do with Christianity?
First of all, in preparation for the holy days, Elul is a month of repentance. It is an island of time to reflect on where we have sinned and ask God to forgive us. This lines up with the gospel message. When Jesus began preaching, He did so by calling people to repentance. And when He sent His disciples out, they went out preaching repentance.
Second, Elul is a month of reconciliation – not only with God, but with man. According to Jewish tradition, God cannot forgive us for sins we committed against someone else until we first ask them to forgive us. So this is an island of time to think about anyone we hurt and to seek their forgiveness.
As a Christian, this should sound familiar. In Matthew 5 Jesus said, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus also gave us the flip side of this when he told us to forgive as much as we had been forgiven.
With the main focus of Elul being repentance and reconciliation, how can we – as followers of Jesus – ignore such a great opportunity? During this month, let us join our Jewish brethren all over the world as we search our hearts for the sin that so easily trips us up. Let us seek to be reconciled to God and man. Is this not, after all, the good news?