Today is the annual “Bring Your Bible to School Day.” Supported by Focus on the Family, the day is intended to empower students and their families to live their faith boldly on campus and in society.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently recorded a short video encouraging students to participate. In a day when we need as many positive role models as possible, you might think Brees would be applauded for supporting biblical truth.
Newsweek reported that Brees recorded a video “produced by anti-gay group.” Out Magazine described Focus on the Family as “Anti-Gay Extremists.” This is because they promote “biblical truths and values, reserving sexual expression for marriage between a man and a woman.”
Responding to a reader’s response
Focus on the Family seeks to help people find Christ as their Lord and live by his word. Such a mission is consistent with the two-thousand-year history of the Christian faith and biblical orthodoxy.
But stating that everyone needs Jesus is more countercultural today than ever before.
For example, Monday’s Daily Article included an appeal to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) and for Jews facing the horrors of anti-Semitism around the world. Toward the end, I included this question: “Would you pray for the Jewish people during these High Holidays to turn to Jesus as their Messiah?”
A Jewish reader responded on our website, stating that my prayer for Jews to trust in Christ is “exactly what fuels anti-Semitism—religious superiority, intolerance and arrogance.” She believes that Jesus “would have only respect, acceptance and love for his people, and ALL people.” In her view, “there are many paths to God which God created so that we could all be in touch with the God of our understanding.” She considers my prayer for Jews to know Christ as their Savior “the highest form of spiritual arrogance clothed in concern.”
I am personally grateful to the reader for taking the time to share her response. Her view that Jews do not need Jesus is by no means unique.
Are Jewish people “already saved”?
Writing for Religion News Service, Rabbi A. James Rudin reports that in July, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada voted to remove a prayer from its liturgy calling for the conversion of the Jewish people to Christianity. An Anglican bishop linked anti-Semitism with “singling out Jews as a target for our evangelistic efforts.”
Rabbi Rudin then quotes Billy Graham: “In my evangelistic efforts, I have never felt called to single out Jews as Jews . . . Just as Judaism frowns on proselytizing that is coercive, or that seeks to commit men against their will, so do I.”
The rabbi also quotes theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who said of Christianity and Judaism: “The two faiths despite differences are sufficiently alike for the Jew to find God more easily in terms of his own religious heritage than by subjecting him . . . to a faith . . . which must appear as a symbol of an oppressive majority culture.”
Rabbi Rudin adds a statement from a Catholic professor: “Jews do not need to convert to Christianity in order to be saved. They are already saved.”
What Jesus, Peter, and Paul thought
Let’s begin with Dr. Graham’s statement. I completely agree that we should not “single out Jews as Jews” or employ coercive evangelistic strategies with them or anyone else. But I am confident that “praying for the Jewish people . . . to turn to Jesus as their Messiah” is neither coercive nor singling out “Jews as Jews.”
Rather, such intercession is an expression of Paul’s statement about his fellow Jews: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). The former Pharisee added: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 9). As a result, “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him” (v. 12).
Peter made the same assertion before the Jewish Supreme Court: “Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11–12).
Peter and Paul took their cues from Jesus, who told his Jewish disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
If Jews are “already saved,” as the Catholic professor claimed, then Paul was wrong in Romans 10. If they can “find God more easily in terms of [their] own religious heritage,” as Prof. Niebuhr stated, then Peter was wrong in Acts 4. If “there are many paths to God,” as my reader stated in her website comment, then Jesus was wrong in John 14.
“The most Jewish thing you can do”
Tragically, the horrors perpetrated against the Jewish people by the Nazis and other so-called Christian groups have made it very hard for many Jews to see Christians as their friends or the gospel as good news. That’s why missionary JoAnn Doyle’s statement to a Jewish Holocaust survivor is so important.
The woman asked, “If I give my life to Jesus can I still be Jewish?”
JoAnn replied, “Of course you will still be Jewish! Following Jesus is the most Jewish thing you can do! It doesn’t change your ethnicity, but it does trade in religion for a relationship with the Living God.”
JoAnn Doyle is right. The most significant way Christians can show God’s love to anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, is by offering them the hope we have found in Jesus.
As someone who has traveled to the Holy Land more than thirty times and deeply loves the Jewish people, I am certain that sharing such grace is the opposite of anti-Semitism. Jesus loved his fellow Jews enough to die for their sins (1 Peter 2:24). Peter and Paul loved their fellow Jews enough to risk their lives by sharing the gospel with them.
Will we love the Jews and Gentiles we know enough to show them God’s love in ours?