One of the challenges preventing improved relations between Christians and Jews is that both have misconceptions about the other.
For example, one of the biggest misconceptions is that most Jews and Christians think Jesus abandoned Judaism, the religion of his birth, in order to start Christianity. They are both incorrect.
Jews have been heavily affected by replacement theology, which most Christians adhere to. Moreover, Jews often feel Christians see them primarily as conversion targets who need to abandon being Jews and embrace Christianity.
Yet there is a growing number of Christians who see things from a different perspective.
These "Christian Zionists," as they are commonly known, have a genuine love for the Jewish people. They recognize that God chose them in order to establish a relationship with humanity.
The book of Deuteronomy tells us He chose the Jews "from all the people on earth for his own unique treasure." The Bible tells us numerous times God established an "everlasting covenant" with the Jews. Yet, the majority of Christians believe God rejected the Jews when Jesus was not accepted as Messiah, and replaced them with the "Church."
I have yet to find a Christian who can point to a verse in the Bible where it says God rejected the Jews. In fact, the Bible indicates quite the opposite. Romans 11:1 says: "Has God rejected his people? Heaven forbid!"
So where did rejection of the Jews as God's covenantal promise holders originate? The simple answer is that it came from misguided fathers of early Christianity, and not from God.
We should always seek the truth, even if it turns out to be contrary to what we've been taught. If Christians did this, the realization that the Jews have not been replaced by the "Church" would be only one of several things which might surprise them.
1,900 years of discrimination
For example, how many Christians know that the real name of Jesus is Yeshua ben Yosef? (Yeshua, son of Joseph.) How many know he never spoke against Judaism? He did take issue with some manmade "traditions," and some individuals in positions of authority. However, contrary to what Christianity teaches, he remained a Jew throughout his life, and always taught Torah observance.
His teachings were never in Christian churches, or on Sunday. They were in Jewish synagogues on Shabbat. The fact is there were no Christian churches when he was alive. The first "Christians" were actually Jews who chose to accept him as their Messiah. They worshipped in Jewish synagogues along with other Jews.
As more gentiles accepted Jesus as Messiah they started to move away from the Jewish birth of what became "Christianity."
Eventually Rome made Christianity its official religion, and the move away from the Jewishness of Jesus and his early followers took root. As time went on, anti-Jewish sentiment grew into the "Church." The image of Jesus was completely made over from what no doubt was a Middle Eastern look to a pale skinned Anglo with a halo over his head and a cross around his neck.
In essence, Christianity hijacked what he looked like, what he taught, and formed its own “Jewishless” image and theology. The makeover and anti-Jewish sentiment permeated most of Christianity, and continues today.
After enduring 1,900 years of discrimination, persecution, forced conversion, banishment and killings, can anyone blame Jews for being hesitant about entering into relations with Christians, or trusting them? Evangelicals should understand why Jews resist converting to the very religion more responsible for their mistreatment than any other.
Yet as difficult as it may be for some Jews to accept, there are Christians who express sincere love for Israel and God's "unique treasure." I believe Jews should actively engage and embrace these Christians. They have professed their dedication to stand with Israel and the Jewish people. This is especially important during these turbulent times, as Egypt and other Arab countries have become increasingly hostile toward Israel and the West following the "Arab Spring."
If Christians wish to promote trust, they might consider doing at least two things. First, offer genuine repentance for what Christianity has done to the Jewish people throughout history. This will help reduce tension and enhance reconciliation. The second suggestion is to love and appreciate the Jewish people for who they are. Recognize that through them we have God's relationship with humanity, the Torah, the 10 Commandments, the Feasts, and so on.
If Christians express genuine love and are not simply out to unilaterally convert Jews, it seems this would be an excellent starting point for Jews and Christians to see each other in a more conciliatory and supportive light. Under such conditions Jews and Christians can undo centuries of misconceptions, and build a strong alliance against common enemies.
Dan Calic: writer, advocate, speaker.
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