How balanced has the Church been?
Is there a distinction between Jews as individuals and the Jewish people as a whole?
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There is an important statement I must make. I have made it before, but I am going to make it again. It is so important that I am going to write it in CAPITAL LETTERS. It’s simple, obvious to some, but others continue to get it wrong and allow it to influence their thoughts, attitudes and behaviour towards Jewish people. The statement is this: INDIVIDUAL JEWISH PEOPLE ARE NOT SAVED UNLESS THEY ACCEPT JESUS AS THEIR MESSIAH. It has to be stated clearly and explicitly as so many people get it wrong. Jews in the world, whether in the UK, the USA or even in Israel are as dead in their sins as those who surround them unless they have made a sincere commitment to their Jewish Saviour, who came to the world 2000 years ago to save them and who still reaches out to them with outstretched arms, saying, ‘These arms are getting tired now, but they’re still waiting for you.’
Christians who express a love of Israel and the Jewish people have to honestly and sincerely examine their motivation on this matter. Christian Zionists are people who have seen the sorry history of the treatment of the Jews by Christians in the past and have woken to these errors, seeking to fight against anti-Semitism and to affirm Jewish people and their Biblical rights to the Land of Israel. But there can be a danger of going too far here, highlighted lucidly by Kay Wilson, in her paper, “An expose of favourable discrimination towards Jewish people within Christian Zionism, and its subsequent effect upon Jewish-Gentile relations.”
She goes as far as to say, “Those very same Christians who seek to fight discrimination against the Jewish people are now in danger of ignorantly perpetuating it”. She justifies her comments by examining how some Christians are also exercising discrimination, albeit a positive one, in blind support of Israel and the Jewish people. If this is on the basis of God’s promises to the Jewish people, then it puts added expectations on relationships with individual Jews, elevating them to some perceived and unrealistic super-spiritual role that is simply not true.
It is true that, as discussed before, there have been some remarkable achievements by individual Jews over the last few centuries and there is a mysterious aspect to this but the assertion by Shylock, in the Merchant of Venice, works both ways, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? …” As individuals, God sees Jew and Gentile as equals, there is no personal favouritism for the Jew. That’s the point of the verse in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
We must learn to distinguish between Jewish people and a Jewish person. God’s covenants with Abraham, Moses and David are for the Jewish people as a whole, the Jewish nation, wherever it may be in the World. These covenants speak of big things, important things. They tells us that a Saviour was to come from the seed of a given people, that these people will inherit the land now known (by most of us) as Israel and that these people are going to have a hard time of it until they return to this land. These people are the Jewish people.
Individual Jews have no relationship with the Saviour, except through faith. Not every Jew (I believe) is automatically going to emigrate to Israel, though all are urged to. Individual Jews have only had a hard time of it in history if they have lived demonstrably as members of the Jewish race. Many have assimilated – living as non-Jews - and escaped persecution, pogroms and the death camps. Also individual Jews have free will to accept or reject Jesus as their Messiah. But not so for the Jewish nation. It has an inescapable destiny, in fact a glorious one in the future, from which it can never escape.
Look at an army of ants. Here they go, shifting twigs, leaves and food along a conveyor belt of individual worker ants. Working as a group, often numbering in the thousands, they corporately achieve great things, though the individual effort of each ant is minimal. When disaster strikes, like a sudden downpour or the intervention of a human child, their goal can be thwarted, an ant hill destroyed or a production line disrupted. This is a disaster for the whole group, not necessarily for an individual ant, who could have survived to live another day. Picture a single ant, like ‘Z’ in the animated film, Antz. He had free will. He was free to woo the princess and do his own thing. (Interestingly this character was mouthed by an archetypal modern Jew, Woody Allen.) When disaster comes, he can always hide or run away. It’s not a complete picture and may not necessarily help you to understand the Jewish people, but it’s the best I can come up with.
It seems that when a Jew becomes a believer in Jesus he enters not only into a new life but also into a new debate. Apparently, it is not enough for a Jew to simply call himself a Christian like any other new believer and be done with it. A new Jewish believer finds himself deluged with labels. He may find himself called a Hebrew Christian, A Messianic Jew, a Completed Jew or a Jewish believer but only rarely a common-or-garden Christian. You don't see Hindu Christians or Messianic Muslims, so why burden the Jews with labels, why can't they just merge into the background and humbly accept their new station as part of the 'Body of Messiah' as a new creation?
Some Gentile Christians may shrug their shoulders and say, 'Just like the Jews, they still think they're specially chosen. Why can't they just be like us?' Yet it is often Gentiles who treat us differently to start with. I have found that it is rare to find a Gentile Christian who is indifferent to my background. From just plain curiosity, to a vague respect born out of the 'blessed is he who blesses' view of the Jew, we always manage to invoke some sort of response. Although I initially found it quietly humorous and touching to be consulted on all things Hebrew and Jewish (if only they knew that my knowledge and training stopped on the afternoon of my Barmitzvah), it can be a bit wearing after a time.
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