The special appreciation and respect that some feel for Jewish people is sometimes called philo-Semitism,” philo being derived from the Greek word phileo, to love. Philo-Semites have a great interest in Jewish history as well as admiration for Jewish culture. And while some people’s idea of respect and admiration of the Jewish people misinforms them on the critical issue of the Jewish people’s need for Christ, true love for Jewish people produces in Christians a willingness to risk personal friendships in order to share Jesus as best they can with their Jewish friends.
That kind of philo-Semitism may be rare in some corners of the world, yet I’ve witnessed it time and time again through many of you, and I thank God for you.
But what about philo-Gentilism? There’s a phrase you don’t hear every day…I suppose I may have coined the phrase, but the concept behind it is God’s. And it bears some reflection in response to an attitude that often puzzles me: a peculiar aversion that some Christians have to being identified as Gentiles.
Some have objected to the use of the term “Gentile” in our newsletter articles, pointing out that, “…in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile…” (Galatians 3:28). To which we usually respond that the same passage also says in Christ there is neither male nor female yet we still maintain separate lavatories among other things. Others find the word Gentile (or its Hebrew equivalent, goy) offensive because they have heard it used as a pejorative term.
I am sorry to say that Jews are not immune from the same kinds of prejudice that afflict other people, including those who use the term “Jew” in a derogatory manner. While, the terms “Jew” and “Gentile” are not negative, the tone and attitude of the people using them can be. After all, Jew (yehudi in Hebrew) means “a praise to God.” Gentile (goy in Hebrew) simply means “nation.” It is sad that some Gentiles and Jews have injected hostility into these terms, but the words themselves are still perfectly good.
In fact, from God’s perspective, being a Gentile is a very good thing. God uses the terms Jews and Gentiles in the Bible to describe His love for all people. And since God loves Gentiles as much as He does, I think it is altogether appropriate for me to be a philo-Gentile. And when I describe myself as a philo- Gentile I can smile at the “proof” of the matter, since I happened to have married a Gentile.
But all personal issues aside, God’s love for Gentiles deserves far more emphasis. Just as it may be more appropriate for Gentile Christians to speak passionately of God’s love for Jews, perhaps it is time for Jews who love Jesus to speak passionately of God’s love for Gentiles. It was because God loves Gentiles that he called a man named Abraham and promised him, “…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed…” (Genesis 12:3). It was that very same love which provided impetus for the coming of Israel’s Messiah. It would never have been enough for God to send a Messiah for Jews only. He spoke of the Messiah through Isaiah saying ” ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth'” (Isaiah 49:6).
Recently I had an opportunity to speak about the gospel to an Orthodox rabbi in Paris, France. As we sat in his office I pointed out that because of Yeshua (Jesus), millions of people from among the goyim (Gentiles) now worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Whereas the Scriptures foretold that Messiah would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3, Psalm 118:22), the Gentiles would welcome Him: “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).
I told the rabbi, “This is a very strong and, I think, persuasive argument for Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, since He has clearly been received by so many from the nations as the Savior of the world.” It gave that rabbi something to think about because he paused, and nodded his head silently.
As you read this August newsletter, our Jews for Jesus missionaries are following up on many contacts we received as a result of our Behold Your God New York campaign in July. We hope that Christian friends from local churches will be doing the same with the many contacts we entrust to them. If the past pattern continues, we will see five to ten times as much fruit through our efforts among Gentiles as we see among Jews. Is that such a bad thing? Certainly not! Yet many fail to see the significance of it.
A rabbi once debated our founder Moishe Rosen on a radio show in New York City. The rabbi leveled an interesting “charge” at Moishe: “I know that you Jews for Jesus convert five times as many Gentiles as you do Jews.” Moishe replied, “What do you want us to do, throw them back?” The Bible tells us that all the angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner repents and we are thrilled to join in the rejoicing over the salvation of Gentiles and Jews. What an honor to follow in the footsteps of the psalmist who wrote, “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name” (Psalm 18:49).
Being a philo-Gentile is not new. Testifying of God’s great love among Gentiles is as ancient a task as it is sacred. We aren’t merely reciprocating the love shown us. We are entering into the holy calling and purpose of the Lord to love those whom He loves. So if you, like most of our readers, are a Gentile, and if you have thought that being a Gentile is not all that special, think again. God prizes diversity, as you can see throughout His creation. And Gentiles, as a variety of nations, make for great and wonderful diversity within the body of Christ. You, with your heritage and your unique individuality, are deeply loved by your heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. His purpose in bestowing His love on us Jews was so that you might fully know His love and grace in your own life. And because we in Jews for Jesus love our Messiah as you do, we all want to be philo-Gentiles, just as He is. We love you too.
Executive Director, Missionary
David Brickner is executive director of Jews for Jesus. David oversees the world-wide ministry from its headquarters in San Francisco. David received his Master’s degree in Missiology with a concentration in Jewish Evangelism and Judaic Studies from the Fuller School of World Mission. He has authored several books, and has been interviewed on national television shows such as Larry King Live. David’s daughter, Ilana is a recent graduate of Biola. His son, Isaac is on the missionary staff of Jews for Jesus. Isaac and his wife, Shaina, have one daughter, Nora, which makes David part of the grandparent club, a membership he is very proud of. See more here.