Last week, a gunman entered the Chabad Synagogue of Poway, CA, near San Diego, and began shooting, killing one person and wounding three others. Were it not for the brave actions of several in the congregation and that the weapon jammed, it would have been far worse, as bad as the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue of Pittsburgh was, just six months ago. Now reports about the shooter in Poway indicate that he was raised in an Orthodox Presbyterian church and his manifesto complained of the old Antisemitic trope that the Jewish people are all Christ killers.
Also last week, the International Edition of the New York Times, the great paper of record, ran a horrific Antisemitic cartoon, worthy of the Nazi rag, Der Sturmer. The paper did not immediately apologize, but instead called running the cartoon a mere “error of judgment.” It took a storm of criticism for the Times to take a second stab at addressing the controversy and offer an actual apology for their Antisemitic cartoon. They blamed it on a single editor not the normalizing of hatred of Israel so common in the New York Times. It took one of their own columnists to identify that as the cause.
These events are both reflections of the radical increase in Antisemitism in the United States and around the world. Most people would be surprised to learn that for years now, the number one target of hate crimes in the United States are Jewish people. The Anti-Defamation League released a report last year showing that Antisemitic incidents increased in 2017 by 60% and just last week, they announced that Antisemitic incidents in 2018 remained at these historic levels.
What is most surprising to me, since I teach and serve in the evangelical Christian sub-culture, is that most Christians don’t recognize that this should have any effect on them. It’s certainly not that they endorse this hatred but many question whether it should matter to them in any special way. Why should Gentile Jesus followers care deeply and act boldly to protect the Jewish people in our midst?
One reason we need to care about Antisemitism is that all followers of Jesus have Jewish roots. In Romans 11, Paul uses an illustration of an Olive Tree, a picture of the New Covenant, that Gentile believers are grafted into. He writes that if the root of this tree “is holy, so are the branches” (Rom 11:16). The root refers to the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The point is that Gentile Christians are branches grafted into a tree with Jewish roots. We need to care about Antisemitism because we stand on Jewish promises made to Jewish patriarchs.
But that’s not the only reason. We also need to care about the hatred of the Jewish people because we have a Jewish redeemer, the Lord Jesus the Messiah. In Romans 9:4-5 Paul lists many of the blessings God has given the Jewish people and a special one is that “from them, by physical descent came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever.” The Messiah who died for our sins and was raised again and who forgave us, is Jewish. Despite the New York Times and a US Congresswoman recently declaring that Jesus was a Palestinian, nothing could be further from the truth. Our Lord Jesus, whom we love and serve, is Jewish. We not only stand on Jewish promises but we have a Jewish savior.
Yet another reason to care about Antisemitism is that we serve a Jewish king. It’s not just that Jesus is Jewish, the Bible identifies Him as “the Son of David.” Paul calls the Lord Jesus a “descendant of David” in both Romans1:3 and 2 Timothy 2:8. His point is that Jesus is the royal heir to the Davidic Covenant. The Messiah Jesus isn’t just our redeemer—He’s our King. If the Lord Jesus were not the true King of Israel, then He would not be the King of the World. Therefore, we must care for the physical family of our king.
A final motivation to stand with the Jewish community against Antisemitism is that one day we will stand before a Jewish judge, the Lord Jesus Himself. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul reminds us that we will all stand before the Bema seat of Messiah, when He will judge our works. Not only that, the Lord Jesus Himself said that He would judge the Gentile nations at the end of the Tribulation (Matt 25:31-46). The basis of His judgment would be how the nations treated the Jewish people during that terrific time of Antisemitism. The Lord receives some into the Kingdom because their actions reflected their genuine faith. He says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” (Matt 25:41). Although this verse is applied in many different contexts, its primary meaning is that “these brothers” refer to the Jewish people.
Too often Gentile Christians think Antisemitism is bad but it’s not really any of their business. But the Scriptures remind us that we need to resist Antisemitism because of our relationships. It is not just someone else’s problem— our roots, our Redeemer, and our Ruler should cause it to be one of our core concerns.