I heard an all too familiar theme surface in an otherwise good sermon with regard to the recognition and acceptance of Jesus as Messiah: “The Jews just missed it!” Sadly, this affront by categorization also shows a total lack of recognition of the role of Jews in the early church and in their making the message of salvation through Yeshua (Jesus) available to non-Jews. It is as if Yeshua appears on the scene, is rejected by the Jews, but is welcomed with open arms by the non-Jews. This subtle, and I would hope, usually unintentional form of anti-Semitism is detrimental from several perspectives:
- It deprives us of our rich heritage and biblical understanding that lie in the Jewish roots of our faith;
- It can be hurtful to those members of the congregation of Jewish origin; and
- It serves to foster feelings of anti-Semitism that lead to more blatant forms of expression.
How is it that otherwise good, morally upstanding men and women can fall into the trap of unintentional anti-Semitism? I think that there are several reasons for this phenomenon:
- Our tendency to categorize a particular racial or cultural group as if it were absolutely homogeneous;
- The almost total void within the church in our knowledge of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and the inherent contribution of Jews in the nurturing and spreading of the message of Yeshua; and
- The failure to recognize that New Testament epistles while embodying universal truth are directed to congregations in a particular cultural and historical setting, usually either primarily of Jewish or of non-Jewish origin—considerations imperative for meaningful present-day application.