Whatever is Lovely

In the light of the recent press statement from the British Messianic Jewish Alliance calling on churches to renounce all forms of anti-Semitism, British church leaders may well be asking why such a statement was necessary. However, not only are anti-Jewish sentiments present in some of our churches but also when Jewish believers complain about negative comments about the Jews in sermons, they are frequently dismissed as being “overly-sensitive” or, more bizarrely, “Judaisers”. Rather than simply dismissing the worries of Messianic Jews, it would surely be far more Christian to try to address the issue at hand
In Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, the “bad guys” were portrayed as ugly, vicious and fierce-featured Jews, whilst the “good guys” were played by beautiful, exotic Italians. Unfortunately, such a stereotype still exists in the minds of many British people. Sadly, the image some British Christians also have of Jewish people is that we are avaricious rather than generous, judgemental rather than forgiving, hypocritical rather than godly, and ugly rather than good-looking. Yet whilst the New Testament criticises some Jews for their behaviour, it also criticises Greeks and Romans. The problem is sin, not ethnicity.

Jews are frequently demonised and marked out as bad examples from our pulpits. I recently heard a visiting preacher warn our congregation not to be judgemental, like those Jews! So why do many Christians concentrate only on the sins of the Jews and write them off as a wicked race of evildoers, when all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?

Paul instructs us in Philippians 4:8 to let our minds dwell upon whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and whatever is admirable. Should this not be the attitude we Christians adopt towards the Jews? Why do we not want to remember that Jesus was a Jew and, moreover, a rabbi? Or that Paul referred to himself as a Jew and a Pharisee, even after his conversion? Let us dwell upon what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable about the Jewish people.

Yes, the Jewish people have frequently sinned and rebelled against God but so have the English, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish. Ultimately, the problem with the Jewish people is not that they are Jewish, but that they are people, and people are sinners. But just as thousands and thousands of British people genuinely trust in Jesus, so too do thousands of Jewish people. Out of a global population of approximately fourteen million Jews, an estimated 300,000 believe Jesus is the Messiah, Mediator, Son of God and King of the Universe. So Jews should not be defined primarily as rejecters of Jesus. If God did not cast away the Jewish people in Elijah’s day, but spared them through a godly remnant of seven thousand believers, then why would he reject the Jewish people today, when there is a godly remnant of over a quarter of a million?

Ultimately, we know that God does not delight in death, but instead he delights in how he has saved people. Thus God frequently reminds his people that he is the Lord our God, who brought us out of Egypt. It is his redeeming work, his mercy and his grace that God wants us to focus on most, not his judgement. Mercy always triumphs over judgement so let us focus on how God has saved so many Jewish people, rather than focusing on unsaved Jews. Let us dwell upon what is noble, pure, lovely and admirable. So what if some Jews choose not to believe in Jesus. Let us continue to trust in God and remember that his anger lasts only a moment while his favour lasts a lifetime, including in his dealings with the Jewish people.

With this in mind, I hope that the churches will hear the cry of Britain’s Messianic Jews today, so that tomorrow’s generation need not suffer.

This article appeared in the September 2007 edition of the Herald and is an edited version of an article which first appeared in issue 111 of the British Church Newspaper under the title "Messianic Jews: A Plea for Understanding"

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