It can be very hard for Christians who love Israel, love the Jewish people and who also love Jesus to understand the ambivalence with which they are sometimes received. Sometimes it’s a warm welcome, an enthusiastic embrace, and great hospitality. At other times the idea of Christians who love Israel can be met with wariness, icy responses and sometimes flat-out hostility.
When I first went to Israel and began sharing with people in Israel how many of us who believe in Jesus also have come to share his love for Israel, I was staggered to see that this was a surprise to many. “So you don’t hate us? Others considered partnering with me, but yet treated me with uneasy caution, knowing the “dangerous” faith that my life is based upon… enjoying me at arm’s length, as one might with a pet tarantula. There are several things going on to contribute to this situation.
The first and obvious element is the horrendous history of the church, and how many Jewish people have been persecuted, tortured and murdered by Christians. The Holocaust is understood to be a “Christian” persecution of Jewish people, because Germany was a “Christian” country. As hard as that may be to stomach, there are many more examples of how people who genuinely saw themselves as true Christians slaughtered entire Jewish communities, or forced them to convert to Christianity. That’s going to leave anti-Christian alarm bells ringing for a few centuries to come.
The second element is the spiritual battle. As much as God loves the people of Israel and calls them the ‘apple of his eye’, Satan hates them. He has sought their annihilation from the moment that God placed his special affection on them, and is determined that they will not know him. God longs for an intimate and loving relationship with his chosen people, and Satan is hell-bent on making sure that does not happen. He has build barricade after barricade to keep people as far away from the truth about Yeshua the Messiah as possible. He has contrived and manipulated the situation that the name of Jesus has become a curseword in Hebrew, and the concept of following him as fundamentally opposed to Jewish identity. It is tragic to see the twisted and mulitple ways this has come to pass throughout history, and how the church has sometimes collaborated with him.
The third element is that God himself, has deliberately hardened the hearts and minds of the people of Israel, so that they cannot know or understand the truth of the gospel for a season of time, as described in Romans 11:25-32:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
This passage is key in understanding our responsibility as gentile believers – it says that Jewish people “May too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you”. That means they may now experience God’s mercy (forgiveness, love and right relationship with him) as a result of God’s mercy to us, the gentiles. That is to say, we have understood the gospel, we have received Jesus and his forgiveness, and we stand in his love, in right relationship with him. Now, as a result of our salvation, we can also share this mercy with the people of Israel.
So God has clearly told us to share this good news with all the world, and here in Romans it is clear that gentiles are to share it with Jewish non-believers too. When it comes to obeying that anti-missionary advert, or obeying God, I know who I will go with.