Do you know the single strongest source of Jewish identity for most Jewish people in the world today—more than the state of Israel, the Holy Scriptures or any other aspect of Jewish life and practice? The Holocaust. And the greatest obstacle for many Jewish people when it comes to hearing the gospel? Again, the Holocaust—which is commonly believed to have been perpetrated by Christians.
Sadly, many Christians have responded to the catastrophic impact of the Holocaust in the worst possible way. The official evangelical church in Germany has recently issued the following statement:
We cannot and will not evangelize Jewish women and men. The Christian confession that Jesus died for all people must not lead to the deduction that Jewish women and men lacked anything for their salvation.
In fact, many who call themselves evangelical Christians say (publicly or privately) that we should not speak with Jewish people about Jesus unless they specifically ask (and in extreme cases, not even then). They believe we don’t have the right to do so because of the Holocaust. Nothing could be further from the truth! The choice between purposing to bring the gospel to Jewish people or refusing to do so is a watershed issue; it either confirms or undermines the most important doctrine of our Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Especially poignant, yet ironic, is this month’s juxtaposition of Resurrection Sunday on April 5th and Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on April 15. I see a profound disconnect among Christians who celebrate Christ’s resurrection this very month, yet also believe they must not tell Jews about Jesus because of the Holocaust.
The apostle Paul underscored the meaning of Christ’s resurrection by describing what life would be without it: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor. 15:14). Paul would have been wasting his breath and the Corinthian Christians would have been wasting their lives—if Jesus had not risen from the dead. But because He did conquer death we know the gospel is the power of God to salvation… to the Jew first (Romans 1:16).
If the gospel should be withheld from Jews because of the Holocaust, what would that mean? It would mean that we are wasting our breath and Christianity is a not-so-clever fraud. It would mean the gospel is not really the power of salvation. It would mean a grotesque triumph of evil. It would mean Hitler wins. Thank God, none of that is true!
He has triumphed over evil and the grave, over Hitler and the Holocaust.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrated God’s ability to bring life from the dead. I have seen the horrors of the Holocaust overcome in many Jewish hearts by the power of Messiah’s now indestructible life. He has triumphed over evil and the grave, over Hitler and the Holocaust.
The gospel is the only message with the power to transform and heal lives that have been destroyed by Hitler’s evil, or the evil of the rising tide of Jew hatred demonstrated all over the world.
In light of the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East, it’s even more important than ever for Christians to show love for and solidarity with Jewish people. The greatest demonstration of God’s love is found in the person of Jesus. And when His love is tangibly and truthfully presented, miracles can happen. Let me tell you my personal favorite story to illustrate this:
I was standing out on a street corner wearing my Jews for Jesus T-shirt when a well-dressed woman in her late 60s came up to me. She was shaking with rage [as] she said, “You’re trying to complete the work that Hitler began.” Then she rolled up the sleeve of her dress to show me numbers on her arm. Ruth is a survivor of the notorious concentration camp at Auschwitz.
I understood her anger. But there was very little I could say.
So imagine my surprise when months later at our Friday evening service in New York City, who should walk through the door but Ruth…. I said to her, “OK, Ruth, so what are you doing here?” She answered, “I have an open mind.” Indeed she did, because she kept coming back every Friday night, and then to our Tuesday evening Bible studies. Imagine my joy when one Friday evening, Ruth responded and prayed with me to receive the Lord Jesus.
How did a heart so broken by the Holocaust open up to receive life from Jesus? It’s one of many examples of God bringing life from the dead—a true miracle.
The generation of Holocaust survivors is dying, which is all the more reason to do as much as we can to offer these dear people the hope of heaven in Jesus Christ. Large populations of survivors still live in South Florida, New York City, Israel, Budapest and even Sydney—all places where Jews for Jesus has active ministries.
In addition to our regular branch ministry, we have some annual special events. Our newsletter last April told about “Two Sons of the Holocaust,” an outreach in Germany, where one staffer, Barry B., who is the son of Holocaust survivors, shares the platform with a former SS guard who has become a follower of Christ. Side by side they are a visual representation of the reconciliation, the love, the healing that can only come about through the power of Christ’s resurrection. Just last month we mentioned our DVD Survivor Stories, that chronicles the stories of seven Holocaust survivors who came to Christ. We’ve had public showings of the film in various cities. Last summer we held one during our Budapest campaign. The woman we had hired to do the voiceover for the Hungarian version of the film is herself a survivor of the Holocaust. She came to the showing and prayed that very night to receive the Lord. Another miracle!
If God can bring Holocaust survivors to faith in Christ, don’t you think He can do the same for your loved ones, whatever they have suffered?
Maybe you don’t know any Holocaust survivors, but here is something to consider: If God is able to bring Holocaust survivors to faith in Christ through the proclamation of the gospel, then don’t you think He can do the same for your friends and loved ones no matter what they have suffered? And, if God can take a heart that suffered the unspeakable atrocities of the concentration camps, replacing the bitterness, grief and loss with love, forgiveness, grace and kindness… then don’t you think He can heal your broken heart, or mine… or so many others we know and love who need His touch?
My dear friends, if Christ be risen from the dead, why wouldn’t we offer the hope of His gospel to every single soul we have the opportunity to reach? Indeed, how can we not do so?
David Brickner is also an author, public speaker and avid hiker. Find out more about David, his writings, speaking schedule and possible availability to speak at your church.