“Poking God’s Eye”: A Jewish Perspective on Christian-Jewish Relations

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The Good Samaritan, by James Tissot.  This parable remains one of Yeshua's most powerful lessons in cross-cultural compassion and cooperation.
Yeshua provided a powerful lesson in cross-cultural compassion and cooperation in His Parable of the Good Samaritan.  (James Tissot, Le bon samaritain, Brooklyn Museum online collection)

What keeps Jews and Christians from getting along?  That is a primary question addressed on The Barking Fox.  The view here is that we are two parts of the same people, the Kingdom of Israel.  Jews are the basis of that Kingdom, the remnant of ancient Israel to whom God committed His oracles, and through whom He brought forth salvation through His Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth.  Christians are people of the nations (Gentiles) who, by the grace of God and their belief in Yeshua as Messiah, cease being Gentiles and join with Jews in the Commonwealth of Israel.

The Apostle Paul wrote much about this, particularly in Romans 9-11 and Ephesians 2.  So did the ancient prophets of Israel.  Ezekiel saw a vision of Two Sticks, the House of Judah (Jews) and the House of Ephraim (non-Jewish Israelites) coming together in the Messianic Age to be one people again.  Hosea spoke of this in his words of judgment and restoration.  John the Revelator even mentioned it when He saw the 144,000 saints of God from Israel’s Twelve Tribes sealed with the sign of God during the Tribulation.

Are we one people?  We profess belief in the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We claim devotion to much of the same body of Scripture.  What then keeps us apart?  Hanoch Young, an Orthodox Jewish Israeli, offers an anecdote that sheds light on the problem.  Hanoch and Ken Rank, a Hebrew Roots believer from Kentucky, recently co-founded United2Restore, an organization designed to promote greater understanding and cooperation of Judah and Ephraim.  In their video introducing the organization, Hanoch offered this explanation:

There’s a basic ten-second conversation that Jews and Ephraimites have, and it goes something like this.  The Ephraimite goes up to the Jewish person and says, “Shalom!  I’m your brother.  I want to come home.”

The Jewish person is thrilled and says, “Great!  So when are you converting to Judaism, and when are you going to give up Yeshua?”

The Ephraimite is stunned and says, “Give up?  I was just going to ask you when are you Jews finally going to get with it and accept Him.”

Hanoch goes on to say, “We’re too busy talking at each other, trying to ‘force the other to be me’, when in reality we should be opening up our hearts and focusing again on the wonderful things we have in common.”

He is right.  Jews, when they think about such things, expect that Christians should wake up and return to Torah, the only true expression of God’s truth.  Christians, when they think about the question, anticipate that one day Jews will realize they were wrong about Jesus and embrace Him as Messiah.  What most likely will happen is that Christians will realize Jesus was Jewish, that He never departed from Torah, and that He expected His disciples throughout the ages to follow His example.  In doing so, they will ignite a curiosity and even a jealousy among Jews, causing them to take another look at Yeshua’s claims to be Messiah.  Then Messiah will come to earth and straighten out all our misconceptions.

In the meantime, the best thing we can do is try to get along.  That means getting to know each other and growing accustomed to one another.  Jews must learn who Christians are and what they believe, and Christians must learn who Jews are and what they believe.  We must approach this process with love, humility, and thick skins.  All too often we do not approach each other at all, and when we do it is with a tragic lack of empathy and understanding.  I know from personal experience that on the Christian side this often means a spiritual superiority complex that runs roughshod over Jewish sensibilities.  At its worst this phenomenon manifests itself as anti-Semitism born of Replacement Theology, resulting in atrocities like pogroms and the Holocaust.  At best, it comes out when well-meaning Christians, intending no wrong, speak in ignorance and offend the very Jews they hope to befriend and support.

An example of this occurred recently in Jerusalem when Anne Graham Lotz issued a call to prayer for Israel in a way that offended Israeli Jews.  This was a heartfelt call for prayer from a distinguished Christian leader who has a commendable record of service to Jesus Christ.  Anne Graham Lotz has done much good for many people around the world, and this is in no way an indictment of her.  However, her remarks reveal a common failing of Christians:  the mistaken belief that the church is somehow separate from or different from Israel.  Her remarks indicated an attachment to the erroneous doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture[1], one of those elements that has widened the division between Jews and Christians for nearly 200 years.  Another way to put it is that “spiritual Israel” (the church) has a destiny different from “physical Israel” (the Jews).  The truth is, we all get to go through the trials of this Last Days, and unless the two halves of God’s people start working together as family, we will only multiply our suffering.

But what exactly do Jews think of Anne Graham Lotz’s remarks?  One answer comes from David Nekrutman, executive director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation near Jerusalem.  In an editorial published by the Jerusalem Post, Mr. Nekrutman explains the unintended offense and delves into the roots of Christian traditions that caused it.  His article, reproduced here, is essential reading for all who seek to remedy the breach between Christians and Jews.




Poking God’s eye


In a recent National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) trip to express solidarity with Israel, Anne Graham-Lotz filmed a video in Jerusalem calling on Christians around the world to pray for the Jewish people to have “God pour out His Spirit of grace and supplication to open their eyes to recognize Jesus as their Messiah and repent of their rejection of him.”

She entitled her prayer as a 9-1-1 emergency call for Christians to join on the first of September to pray for one hour since she thinks, based on her belief, that we are at the “end of the End Days and Jesus is coming very soon to take back the Church to be with Himself forever, all the Evangelical Christians will disappear, and Israel will be more alone than ever.”

Quite cognizant that many Christians believe via the New Testament that the only path to salvation is a dogmatic approach to John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life,” I fully understand their wish for everyone, including Jews, to believe that Jesus is both lord and the messiah.  As a Jew, I too believe that my expression of covenantal faith, Judaism, is the most perfect revelation and it would give me no greater pleasure for others to see the beauty of my faith and come within our fold.  However, in the economies of religious experiences, Judaism will state that it does not possess the monopoly on salvation and no one is required to be Jewish in order to be saved.

From Christianity’s scriptural canon, the Apostle Paul writes in the Book of Romans that the “root nourishes the branch.”[2] What began as a movement within the many “Judaisms” of Second Temple period eventually morphed into 41,000 different Christian denominations practiced today.

I would venture to say that many Evangelical Christians are not aware of how their particular brand of Christianity came to be, and the negative history of the Church’s actions toward the Synagogue. Furthermore, most Christians in general do not have any real connection to the Jewish people or understanding of Judaism. Even among those who proclaim a grafting into, and not replacement of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, many do not see Judaism as a valid expression of covenantal faith.

It is quite difficult for the average Christian to overcome the theological baggage of Replacement Theology, known as Supersessionism. Because of that it is miraculous that a remnant within Christendom is willing to stand with us despite the theological differences. These Christians walk alone within the mainstream of their faith, but are willing to live in mystery and rely on God to work it all out as per their own interpretation of Romans 11 without embracing dual-covenant theology. I want to express my sincerest appreciation for the millions of Christians who pray for the peace of Jerusalem and proactively demonstrate their “calling” by sowing into charities that help to protect and maintain Israel as well as bringing Jews from around the world back to their homeland.

Mrs. Graham-Lotz is clearly counted among those who strive and yearn to stand on the side of God in the unfolding of His master plan and stands with Israel in the midst of the conflicts ahead. Her misspoken words come from a heart that clearly wants to love the people that God loves. Yet, her words conjure up similar expressions raised against this people throughout the ages. Those words were raised in arrogance, ignorance and hatred. Clearly Mrs. Graham-Lotz is not guilty of any of those, but her words are inflammatory and hurtful nonetheless.

I meet many Christians who say that they are “praying for me.” No longer agitated by this since I excuse the gesture as their ignorance of Judaism, I cannot be quiet when an international leader takes advantage of an Israeli solidarity trip, funded by Israel’s Tourism Ministry, to make an “emergency call” for souls of all Israeli Jews. You accepted an invitation to the Land and you poked God in His eye. Now that’s chutzpah! Supporting Israel and the Jewish people has to mean more than catchphrases of Genesis 12:3 or half verses from the books of Esther and Ruth. It means relationship and fellowship.

If both Judaism and Christianity claim to be covenanted communities, there needs to be a humbleness of spirit that God is greater than all of us, and in His paradigm, He is the ultimate decider in who gets into Heaven. It also requires the willingness to learn from one another without a sense of triumphalism.

I pray that Anne Graham-Lotz and others who think the way she does will receive a true heart for Israel in that they see the Jewish people’s expression of covenantal faith via Judaism as valid, that our restoration to the Land of Israel affirms that God’s covenant with us has never been abrogated or contingent upon a belief as Jesus as divine and messiah, and that God in His ultimate grace and mercy will work all this out in His time. Who will join me in this prayer during a time of introspection and reflection in the sacred Jewish calendar leading up to the days of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)?

The author is the executive director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Efrat. 

The article originally appeared in the opinion section of Jerusalem Post, September 4, 2014 edition.

[1] For a thorough assessment of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, see the teaching by 119 Ministries entitled “Testing the Pre-Trib Rapture” available at http://119ministries.com/end-of-days-series-testing-the-pre-trib-rapture.  A transcript of the teaching is available here.

[2] Mr. Nekrutman refers to Paul’s discourse in Romans 11 indicating that Gentile believers in Jesus (Yeshua) have been grafted in to the olive tree of Israel with Jews, and that the Hebraic root of that tree, evident through the oracles of God which were committed to the Jews, is what nourishes the faith of non-Jewish believers.  The specific reference is Romans 11:13-18.

© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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