Why Do American Evangelicals Care So Much About The Jewish People?
By Rob Schwarzwalder/The Washington StandJune 01, 2023
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A while back, a friend told me he believes evangelicals are inherently anti-Semitic. I was pained to read this, and tried to explain why this belief is far from the truth.
However, his remark has haunted me. I believe he made it because followers of Jesus want to see all people, including Jews, come to know Him. Paul the apostle wrote that he would be willing to be "accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my countrymen ... who are Israelites" (Romans 9:3-4). Paul would have been glad to lose his salvation if the Jewish people would repent and believe in their Messiah.
It is due to this same burden for their eternal salvation that some accuse Christians of loving the Jews only because they want to win them to faith in Jesus. While there is no way to prove this is not true of some evangelicals, it does not reflect the more thoughtful approach orthodox Protestants take to our relationships with Jews individually or corporately.
First, evangelical Protestants care deeply about the Jews because within living memory, nearly six million of them were slaughtered in a meticulously planned genocide. In many communities in the United States, aging survivors of the Holocaust can display the tattooed numbers on their arms, used by the Nazis to catalog human beings like so many cattle.
The brutality experienced by the Jewish people outrages the innate sense of justice embedded within every person. "The work of the [moral] law is written on the heart," Paul writes (Romans 2:15). The moral conviction common to all people can be hardened, but unimpeded by purposeful rejection it weighs heavily as one considers the horrors suffered by Jews in mid-20th century Europe.
In other words, evangelicals are like every decent person who is sickened by Nazism's attempted obliteration of the children of Abraham. We want to stand with the Jewish people (and with Israel) because not to do so is to deny not only their humanity but our own.
Second, evangelicals recognize -- as do all who are honest about contemporary affairs -- that the Jewish people remain a target of hate in many quarters in the world. Recently, my family and I attended the Bar Mitzvah of the son of some dear friends and former neighbors. As we entered the synagogue, an armed policeman sat at a desk, scrutinizing the guests as they came in.
He was there because of the threats received against that synagogue and also the synagogue attacks of the past few years. As people commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves, how can we do other than to stand with those who risk insult and even death simply by being what God made them -- Jews?
Third, evangelicals owe the Jewish people a debt that can never be repaid. To them, Paul reminds us, "theirs is the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants the giving of the Law, the Temple service, and the promises." Supremely, he writes, Jesus was Jewish "according to the flesh, Who is over all, God blessed forever" (Romans 9:4-5). God was incarnated as a Jew; this alone should encourage Jesus's followers to love the Jewish people. For evangelicals not to support the Jewish people would be to abandon the very foundation of the faith we profess. Rabbi Jesus would be ashamed should we fail in this regard.
Fourth, the relentless and pervasive attacks on the State of Israel demonstrate that anti-Semitism is far from dead. A homeland for a people for centuries attacked, dispersed, denigrated, and murdered is not too much to ask. Occupying about 8% of the land mass of the Middle East in a country about the size of New Jersey, Israel has both a moral and political right to exist as a Jewish nation.
Evangelicals and, I hope, the American people as a whole view Israel not as another country in the U.N. alphabet of nations but as a place of protection, hope, and opportunity for a people so long driven from almost everywhere they have tried to take root.
Fifth, and back to the original point, evangelicals believe that "all men everywhere" (Acts 16:30) should enter into an everlasting relationship with their Redeemer. This is as true for the Ibo people of Nigeria and the Moro people of the Philippines as it is for the Jews. "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23) for all -- Jew and Gentile who place their trust in Him alone for forgiveness.
Finally, anyone suggesting that the Jewish people are uniquely implicated in the murder of Jesus is willfully ignorant of what the Bible teaches. The libelous charge that all Jews are somehow accountable for Jesus's crucifixion because some member of the Jewish religious leadership told Pilate they would accept responsibility for his murder (Matthew 27:24-25) has brought unimaginable suffering to Jews throughout the ages.
The idea that this statement, one those making it had no authority to make, justifies the oppression of a race makes as much sense as someone telling the federal government, "Go ahead and spend! I'll take full responsibility for the entire federal debt!"
Pilate was a Gentile. The Roman legionaries, including those who flagellated Jesus and pierced His side with a spear, were Gentiles. In a word, all of humanity was represented at the trial of the Savior and on Calvary. And all of our sins put the Lord of glory on the cross.
Evangelical Protestantism is not anti-Semitic. It is, and should always be, philo-Semitic, composed of people who love and advocate for those of whom Scripture says, "the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29) -- those to whom we owe our whole identity as the people of God, the Jews.