Monday, July 4, 2022

How Can Christians Respond to Antisemitism?

“Maybe they’ll have compassion for [expletive] Jews!” 

These were some of the repulsive last words of Malik Faisal Akram, who attacked Congregation Beth Israel in The King’s University’s backyard in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday, January 15, 2022. Moments later, the remaining three Jewish hostages he was holding (including the rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker), bravely escaped after being held at gunpoint for nearly twelve hours. Akram was then killed in a shootout with the FBI.

When I found out the hostages were free, tears of joy filled my eyes. Attacks against Jewish people rarely end without harm to Jewish life anymore. But it was yet another antisemitic attack in the United States.

In the past few years, the FBI reports that 60 percent of religious-motivated hate crimes have been against less than 2 percent of the American population—the Jewish people. There are, on average, ten antisemitic attacks against Jewish people per day globally right now. If this does not shock you, I would like you to ask yourself an honest question: 

Am I concerned about the Jewish people? 

There is no judgment or shame here. Just sincerely ask yourself: as a Christian, do I care about the Jewish people? 

Most of you will immediately answer yes! As believers in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, how could we not care about His family today? The next question, then, is how can we respond to antisemitismI’d like to propose four practical ways here through the acronym, C.A.R.E. 

Commit to What God Chooses

In Deuteronomy 7, God tells the Israelites “I have chosen you to be my own special possession.” This is how the Jewish people came to be called the “chosen people.” And this “chosenness” was not for a set period of time. It is ongoing and perpetual, even today. 

The book of Ruth famously tells the story of the Gentile, Ruth, leaving her homeland to return to the Land of Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi. 

“Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.… May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

Ruth, a non-Jewish woman, was committing herself to the God and people of Israel. There was no “plan B” for Ruth, no escape if things went poorly for her. Today, the Christian Church should be similarly committed to the Jewish people! 

Align our Hearts with God’s. 

A commitment can often be decided in the mind. If we are to truly care for the Jewish people, we also need a deep heart-based revelation of God’s love for the Jewish people. 

The Apostle Paul paints an example of this in Romans 9:1-3: 

“With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children.”

Most Christians do not realize that one of the main reasons Paul wrote the letter to the Roman church was because the predominantly Gentile Roman fellowships of believers were developing an anti-Jewish sentiment towards their fellow Jewish followers of Jesus. 

In one raw and vulnerable statement, Paul models how deeply Christians should love Jewish people—even those who have not yet put their faith in Jesus. To be willing to forfeit your own eternal salvation for the sake of another group of people shows the most profound love and care imaginable. Paul fully understood the unbreakable love God has for the Jewish people, and allowed his heart to be filled with that love. 

Recognize our Triumphalism.

For nearly 2,000 years, the predominant theological “operating system” of the Christian Church has been that it has superseded (replaced) Israel & the Jewish people. When someone replaces another, it is easy to begin thinking you are better than or more important than whoever you’ve replaced. 

Even for those of us who disavow this unbiblical theology, we must realize that our patterns of thinking and emotions towards the Jewish people have been influenced by a triumphalist spirit for centuries. 

Consider our name for the first 39 books of the Bible: the Old Testament. I’m not sure about you, but anything I deem “old” vs. something “new” is not usually done so in a benevolent light. Our treatment of God’s instruction in that first Testament is often condescendingly referred to as “law,” while we compare it to the “grace” of the “new” Testament. 

Innocently, we often call non-Jesus following Jewish people “unbelieving Jews” or refer to a Jewish believer in Jesus as “completed”. But what about sincere Jewish people who do believe faithfully in the God of Israel? Are they “incomplete” people? Can you see how slippery and triumphant these innocent, common Christian phrases can sound? 

Paul, again, attempted to deal with this in his letter to the Roman church: 

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], being like a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them to share with them the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the [broken] branches and exalt yourself at their expense. If you do boast and feel superior, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root that supports you.”

Gentile Christians must remember that we have been added to Israel’s own olive tree. We are the “younger brothers and sisters.” We have been adopted into the Jewish people’s story through faith in Israel’s Messiah, Jesus. Again, ask yourself: is there any place in my heart that is haughty towards Jewish people or Jewish identity? I ask God this question almost weekly, and He continues to shine a spotlight on my innocent, hidden places of triumphalism. 

Educate Others. 

Today, antisemitism is growing almost under the radar of broader culture. Yes, there are periodic public attacks like the one in Colleyville. But the cancer of antisemitism thrives when it is ignored, minimized, or overlooked. 

If Christians will not speak out against these hateful beliefs or behaviors, who will? If Christians will not speak to fellow believers about the harmfulness of replacement theologies in the Church, who will? 

I encourage you to visit The Gateway Center for Israel to access tools to learn and better advocate for the Jewish people. I also encourage you to enroll in a course in TKU’s Messianic Jewish Studies Program

I truly do pray that Christians around the world can learn to C.A.R.E. for their Jewish brothers and sisters. Both Paul and Jesus were willing to go to great lengths of sacrifice for their Jewish family members. So, too, should we who bear Christ’s name. 

Nic Lesmeister
Nic Lesmeisterhttps://centerforisrael.com
Nic Lesmeister is the director of the Gateway Center for Israel at Gateway Church. He is the former president of the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI).