My Friend, the Enemy; My Enemy, the Friend
Ginny is a friend of the Jewish people. She was raised in California but now lives in Moscow. She is a Gentile for Jesus. Every week Ginny and one or two others stand near the Israeli embassy and offer evangelistic literature to Jewish people who come to inquire about emigration visas. Despite her difficulty with the Russian language, Ginny speaks unashamedly about her love for the Jews because of her love for Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah. More importantly, she speaks not so much about her love for the Jewish people but about His love for them.
Ginny is a friend of the Jewish people, though some would not think so. Some who do not believe in Jesus and oppose the idea of Ginny telling others about the Savior regard her as a threat, even an enemy. More than once, they have hurled the accusation at her, You are trying to destroy us spiritually, just like Hitler tried to destroy us physically.”
The words sting, but Ginny doesn’t become angry. She knows that they are uttered in unawareness and fear. Instead, she explains, “If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t be here. If I didn’t love you, I would keep silent. If I didn’t love you, I would let you go to hell.”
Hanu and Hanelle are two more friends of the Jewish people. They come from Finland, but like Ginny, they and their two daughters live in Moscow. From Finland they receive clothes, medicines and gospel literature, including New Testaments, which they distribute freely to Jewish people. They offer assistance with the medicine and clothing, and they preach the gospel with their literature and their lips.
Not long ago, a flyer published by an antimissionary group virtually accused Hanu and Hanelle of spiritual crimes against the Jewish people. Like Ginny, they were targeted as enemies. Ironically, anti-Semitic nationalists in Moscow recognized Hanu and Hanelle’s love for the Jewish people and also targeted them. They brought pressure upon the managers of the hall where Hanu and Hanelle distributed their supplies and conducted their Bible studies. The managers canceled their contract, but Hanu and Hanelle simply found another hall. Their love for the Jewish people compelled them to do nothing less.
Brad is another friend of the Jewish people. A young man in his late twenties, he has lived in Minsk for the past several months. Though Brad is young, he has a special concern for the Jewish people of a previous, unique generation—those who survived the Holocaust. He meets with them and talks to them. Whenever he can, he helps them, especially if they have plans to move to Israel. He also tells them about Yeshua. Brad conducts Bible studies so that they may learn about the Messiah, who died for their sins and rose from the dead. He has seen many of these Jewish survivors embrace the Jewish Savior.
Ginny, Hanu, Hanelle and Brad are friends of the Jewish people, though some Christians don’t think so. Some believers in Jesus say they love the Jewish people, but they oppose the idea of speaking to them about the Savior. They regard Ginny, Hanu, Hanelle and Brad as threats, even enemies.
Those Christians see themselves as friends of the Jewish people. They believe that God has given them a love for His ancient chosen people, and they are right. They believe that God loves His ancient chosen people and that He has not cast them off, and they are right.
They believe that this is not the time to speak to the Jewish people about the claims of Yeshua, and in this they are wrong! They believe that by keeping silent about the gospel, they are acting like friends. Again, they are wrong!
“I cannot tell these dear Jewish people about Jesus,” one committed Christian from England once said to me.
“Why not?” I asked.
“We don’t have that right,” she explained. “In light of all the evil that was done to these people during the Holocaust by Gentiles, we don’t have the right to tell them about Jesus. Before we can speak about the Savior, we must ask their forgiveness and prove our love.”
There was a tender logic to her words, and it was clear that she had spoken from the heart. Yet her logic was flawed, and her heart was leading her astray.
“Did you endorse the Holocaust?” I asked her.
A sudden look of shock erupted across her face. “No,” she insisted. “Certainly not.”
“Did Jesus endorse the Holocaust?”
“No,” she protested. “Jesus was a Jew, and Jesus loves His people.”
“Then why are you apologizing for yourself and for Jesus for something that neither of you endorsed?” I asked.
She was patient with me. “But you see, so many of your Jewish people think that we Christians endorsed the Holocaust because of our silence.”
“And your apology convinces us Jews all the more that our thinking is correct,” I said.
Must Christians apologize for the crimes of the evil one before they can preach the gospel of God? Did Jesus apologize for the crimes of Rome before He told people to repent?
Those who say that the Holocaust has deprived Christians of the right to speak the gospel to the Jewish people give credence to the lie that Christians are to blame for the atrocities of the Third Reich.
Certainly, many of our Jewish people react negatively to the gospel message. History has conditioned us, not against the Messiah, but against hearing the message with an open mind. It is not uncommon that when we hear the claims of Yeshua, we react as though someone had poured spiritual salt into an open wound in our souls. That is why, for fear of causing hurt or giving offense, some Christians perform acts of kindness or speak words of compassion that stop short of describing what the Bible calls the greatest demonstration of God’s love—the sacrifice of Yeshua for the sins of the world (John 3:16; Romans 5:8, 10).
But true friendship and true love must be modeled after Yeshua’s example. In love, Yeshua told the truth, even though it was unpleasant to hear. He did not hold back for fear of hurting or causing offense. He loved too much to remain silent.
Recently in the port city of Odessa, a representative of a Jewish relocation agency confided to a Christian friend, “You know, we have a serious threat in Odessa. Many Jews here are turning to Jesus.”
The Christian was somewhat startled at those words. He had thought the Jewish official was going to say something about the rising trend of anti-Semitism. But when he heard the “threat” identified as the phenomenon of Jews turning to Jesus, that Christian was taken aback. In a moment, his astonishment passed, and he understood that an opportunity lay before him. His Jewish friend knew that he was a Christian. Now all he had to do was ask him why he saw the situation as a menace. All he had to do was ask something as simple as, “Why is it a threat to the Jewish people if they place their faith in Jesus the Jewish Messiah?”
But instead of speaking, the Christian remained silent. And with his silence he reinforced the Jewish man’s assertion that Jesus is the enemy of the Jews.
A friend may choose to keep silent if wronged. And a friend will keep silent rather than speak lies or gossip. But a true friend will not keep silent if his silence causes harm to the one he claims to love.
God explains in Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Ginny, Hanu, Hanelle and Brad are truly friends of the Jewish people!
Avi Snyder is a veteran missionary and director of the European work of Jews for Jesus. He pioneered Jews for Jesus’ ministry in the former Soviet Union, before launching works in both Germany and Hungary. He will share with you what is happening in Jewish evangelism in Russia and Eastern Europe. Avi received his theological training at Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Ruth, have three grown children, Leah, Joel and Liz.