Loving the Unknown
We don’t generally suggest that people declare their love for the Jews as an opening to share their faith.* It would be easy for the hearer of that declaration to misunderstand the sentiment and misconstrue the motives. Or, more likely, they might dismiss the statement as insincere, thinking, How can you love people you don’t even know?” The honesty and integrity of such a statement may be hard to accept at face value. After all, it’s not like a “Secret Valentine” where two people know each other, but one is unaware that the other is sending anonymous gifts and cards.
(*That is not to say it would never be appropriate to tell someone that you love the Jewish people. But it usually helps if the person knows you well enough to understand your intentions.)
While many might question the sincerity of one who declares love for an entire group of people, actually Judaism does allow for a blanket love that covers those we don’t know. A concept known as Ahavat Yisrael could be translated, “love of Israel.” It expresses the sense of loyalty and connection that all Jewish people should ideally have for every other Jewish person regardless of their differences. But this sense of commonality is limited to the boundaries of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is more about solidarity than about love; at least that is how many Jews would understand it. Real love means more that that.
The late Charles Shultz’s “Peanuts” cartoons contain some gentle wisdom. In one cartoon Linus leans, elbows atop a wall, as he explains, “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand.” We all see the irony. For love to be genuine there has to be some objective reality attached. And for people to believe they are loved, they need to see that reality. It is easy to say, “I love ______.” Demonstrating genuine love is much more difficult. That is why the advice for witnessing is “Don’t simply say you love the Jewish people; show your love for the particular Jewish person you are trying to reach.”
Genuine, tangible love can penetrate the defenses of the human heart and open a person up to receive the message of the gospel. Real love is never manipulative, never a means to an end, though love always hopes for the best and expresses that hope honestly. As Christians, our love need not be limited to people we actually know. It is truly possible for us to love the unknown because those unknown to us are completely known and loved by God. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that God has full disclosure on each and every one of us, warts and all, yet He still loves us. We know that “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
God’s love is not a sloppy sentimentality. It is genuine and unfazed by His thorough knowledge of all our sin, our indifference toward Him and even our enemyship towards Him. Further, it is a tangible, demonstrable love that cost the Son of God His very life-blood. Yeshua’s (Jesus’) love was proven through His suffering and death on the cross, and it became powerfully, redemptively available to all through His resurrection from the dead. It is God’s love for us that enables us to truly love Him in return. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
If our love for God is a response to His love for us, then certainly our love for others should be a response to His love as well. “…If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). In fact, our love for God is only made complete in us when we love those whom He also loves. That is certainly true when it comes to the Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ. History and our own experience teach us this is no small feat. We often find it easier to love the sinner than to love the saint. You may have heard the little ditty, “Oh to live with saints above, that will be glory. But oh to dwell with saints below, that is a different story.” We expect more and so we are more easily and deeply disappointed over failures in the church. Yet we can find the strength to love those “saints below” because of God’s love for them and His love for us.
Recently I met a brother in Christ who has been a church leader in China. As he shared with me what God was doing among His people there, I sensed God’s love for them welling up in my heart in a way that is hard to describe. The suffering of nameless Christians whom God truly loves in China and elsewhere should call us to demonstrate our love for God and for those yet unknown to us whom He loves. We can demonstrate that love most of all through fervent prayer for them, as well as through financial support of those who serve the church there. That kind of love reflects Christ’s work in us. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren…” (1 John 3:14). In contrast, those who despise the church are despising its Head, Christ Jesus. Those who love God’s people are expressing their love for God and demonstrating the reality of His love in them. It is on this same basis that we are called to love the lost. Since “God so loved the world,” we are called to love and care for others and to share His love with them in Jesus. That is certainly true with the Jewish people as well.
I know that many of you who support Jews for Jesus and pray for us do so as a tangible outworking of your love for a Jewish person God has brought into your life. It may be a neighbor or a business associate. It may be a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law. Others may support us without actually knowing any Jewish people. Yet they know the Bible and understand how much God loves His chosen people Israel. Their prayers and support of Jews for Jesus are a tangible way to join in that love. If you know someone who is Jewish, I want to encourage you to share that love tangibly by telling them of God’s love in Jesus the Messiah.
But whether or not you know Jewish people, I want to thank you for loving them tangibly through your prayers and support of Jews for Jesus. I promise you that we will continue to do all we can to share God’s love in Jesus so that one day you may meet more of those whom you have loved in faith. That will indeed be glory, because on that day we will not only know those we have loved without having met, but we will meet face to face the One who is the source of all love…and we shall know as we are known. On that day our love will truly be complete in Him.
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.