Letter Concerning Southern Baptists
Rarely have I taken the time to comment in writing to anything sent by mass mail but the occasion of your article (Mishpochah Message, Winter, 1997) warrants a response.
In the article you advised Messianic Jews to embrace the evangelical thrusts of the Southern Baptist Convention to non-believing Jews. Great ire had apparently been expressed by many at the notion of cultural genocide directed at our brothers who have suffered so much at the hand of self-righteous ‘Christians.’ You advised your readers to suffer as Christ suffered, to bear false accusations and to rejoice that the gospel is going forward. Finally you eased the burden by noting that the Southern Baptists not only tolerate but encourage a Jewish flavor in some of their congregations.
I admire your courage and the strength of your convictions. It takes a lot of faith to be called a Nazi by your own kin and rejoice in it because, in Jesus’ words, great is your reward in heaven.” It takes a lot less courage for the Southern Baptists to issue their call. But more to the point, several things need to be spoken to both the Southern Baptists and to the Jewish people.
To the Baptists:
- Like it or not, you carry not only the mantle of Christ but also the baggage of Luther, various Popes and early Church fathers, who, when they were not able to convert Jews to their theology, provided the doctrinal justification to crucify them throughout the ages. If at some point your evangelical campaigns do not proceed as planned, try seeking the Lord rather than trying to complete your assignment in the flesh
- Take the time to seek forgiveness from Jewish people on behalf of those who exercised so much viciousness in the past
- Build bridges. An excellent place to start is to instruct your members not only of the spiritual heritage of Israel as a nation but also of spiritual calling of the physical descendants of Abraham as a people—a calling that is without revocation. After that, parishioners should be encouraged to publicly denounce anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish news stories through letters to the editor in their local newspapers. This display of public support (i.e., risk-taking) would blow the socks off many Jewish people
To the Jewish people:
- God himself has preserved the Jewish people. The Amorites are gone. So are the Moabites, Hivites, Jebusites and the Roman empire. History is His story and he is faithful to fulfill His promises. With all due acknowledgment of the diligent efforts of many Jewish parents in teaching the faith to their children throughout many centuries, it is God’s responsibility to keep the Jewish people for the days of promise—not ours. And He has done an admirable job.
- It is not un-Jewish to accept the Jewish Messiah. In fact it makes us more so. Also, many Jews who accept the Messiah have been secular in thinking. Often our salvation experience rekindles our interest in practicing Jewish tradition.
- God is no respecter of persons. He cherishes our faith and obedience. If we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord He will lift us up. We only need to seek His will.
With many prayers, from my family to yours, for God’s companionship in this new year, I remain,
Dear Allen Selis,
Thanks for your response to the Mishpochah Message article, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”
I think many people would agree with you regarding your suggestions to the Southern Baptists following their declaration. Particularly poignant is the line, “If at some point your evangelical campaigns do not proceed as planned, seek the Lord rather than trying to complete your assignment in the flesh.” Jewish believers and unbelievers alike are all too aware that much persecution has ensued when well-meaning people became frustrated in their attempts at Jewish evangelism.
I also like the idea of Christians denouncing anti-Israel and anti-Jewish news stories through letters to the editor in local newspapers.
The one suggestion that I would be sorry to see passed along to our Southern Baptist friends is that of seeking forgiveness from Jewish people “on behalf of those who exercised so much viciousness in the past.” Certainly people today can make it clear that they do not share the feelings of those who persecuted our people, but I believe that only those who committed a wrong can ask forgiveness for that wrong. To apologize for someone else’s sin cannot lessen it, and it might even perpetrate the idea that people can be blamed for things they didn’t do—things done hundreds or even thousands of years before they were born. All of us have been called Christ-killers at some time, and we know how that feels. I think we need to be careful that we do not do the same, inadvertently, to brothers and sisters in Christ who have never harmed a Jewish person.
I know that what you suggested is commonly viewed as an appropriate step of reconciliation between all kinds of people. Still, I hope that if we are quick to ask forgiveness for our own wrongs, we will not be expected to apologize for anyone else’s.