Religion & Beliefs

Good News: Jesus Loves the Jews (and the Evangelicals Do, Too)

Last Friday in the New York Times, on page A13, the World Evangelical Alliance took out a full page ad headlined “The Gospel and the Jewish People: An Evangelical Statement.” The ad expresses their "genuine friendship and love for the … Read More

By / March 31, 2008

Last Friday in the New York Times, on page A13, the World Evangelical Alliance took out a full page ad headlined “The Gospel and the Jewish People: An Evangelical Statement.” The ad expresses their "genuine friendship and love for the Jewish people,” and acknowledges the history of anti-Semitism. The declaration of friendship with Jews is repeated a number of times, leading up to the real purpose of the ad. Are you ready?

“At the same time we want to be transparent in affirming that we believe the most loving and scriptural expression of our friendship towards the Jewish people, and to anyone we call friend, is to forthrightly share the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.”

Over the years I've been skeptical when evangelical Christians have suggested that their support of Israel is strictly for the good of the state and the Jewish people, and has no bearing on End-Time beliefs or a hope for the eventual conversion of the Jews. I have also had a number of conversations with evangelical and born again Christians who insist that their love of the Jews stems from the Abrahamic underpinnings of their own faith, and that God has a special plan for the Jewish people.

On an episode of Donny Deutsch’s show The Big Idea last year, Ann Coulter discussed how Christians want Jews to “be perfected.” This message was seen as intolerant, bigoted, and smacking of anti-Semitism. No one wanted to accept that this is what Christians really believe—not even many Christians. Meanwhile, just last week in the New York Times Magazine, the ever-deposing Deborah Solomon interviewed the televangelist Reverend John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel. Solomon asked him if their mission was completely noble — simply support for Israel out of Christian love for their Jewish cousins. He replied, “Our support of Israel has nothing to do with any kind of 'end times' Bible scenario. My support of Israel is based on a recognition of the enormous debt we gentiles owe to the Jews.”

We seem to be receiving some mixed messages, and last week's New York Times ad from the World Evangelical Alliance is no different. You see, they didn't just take out a $60,000ish (yes, these things can cost tens of thousands of dollars) full-page ad to let everyone to know they love Jesus. Instead, the ad goes on:

“We believe it is only through Jesus that all people can receive eternal life. If Jesus is not the Messiah of the Jewish people, He cannot be the Savior of the World.”

So there it is. Finally. And if you think that support of Israel can still be enacted by evangelical Christians without any future desire for a total Jewish conversion, note the last line of the ad:

“It is our profound respect for the Jewish people that we seek to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them…for we believe salvation is only found in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and savior of the world.”

It is impossible, as someone like Rev. John Hagee would like us to believe, to divorce the theology of the Christian messiah from End-Time and rapture theology. And evangelical Christians cannot hope for their own salvation with the coming of Christ without the implicit necessity of the New Testament prophecies regarding Israel and the Jews.

Now, in a clear, unashamed, and unabashed message, evangelical Christians are admitting to Jews that they do not believe salvation is possible for us without Jesus. I am pleased about this admission. It openly confirms all the things I intuitively knew to be true. But what is disturbing about this ad is that is fails to recognize that the very idea of unredeemed Jewish people is bigoted, and foments anti-Semitism. I am not saying many signers of this document are anti-Semites but surely it is not enough to say in the ad “we do not wish to offend our Jewish friends."
Every year on Yom Kippur Jews all over the world gather in synagogues and shuls to pray fervently for redemption—redemption promised by God in the very same scriptures that Christians use to support their own history and their own promised redemption. To suggest that Jews cannot be redeemed without Jesus is not only theologically unsound; it removes the very bedrock of the Christian religion. The Jews, Christians have always maintained, are God’s chosen people and are secured a place in God’s plan through Torah and mitzvoth. Jesus never reneges on this, and arguably would have believed it himself. But enough with the theology lesson. Now we can finally reach across the religious divide and feel the joy buzzer in the evangelical handshake. This is a watershed moment in evangelical Christian and Jewish relations. Many liberal Jews have looked with skepticism at some Jewish leaders’ willingness to go to bed with evangelicals over things like Israel and other policy issues.

How will it feel now, knowing with certainty that the people who claim to want nothing but the best for their “Jewish friends” really only want to see our eventual “completion"?