The Anguish of the Jews

I have just finished reading a book that was very painful to read, The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism, by Edward H. Flannery.

The book was painful to read, not only because it is a tale of terrible suffering endured on an unprecedented scale for so long a time, but also (and especially) because so much of that suffering was inflicted by the hands of Christians. Flannery, although a Roman Catholic priest whose own church figures prominently in the story, doesn’t shy away from exposing the instances in which the church was either complicit in the persecution of the Jews or the actual perpetrators of said persecution.

While Flannery cites many examples of Christian leaders’ affection for, and defense of, the Jews, the sad fact of the matter is that the church as a whole has a terrible track record. And this in spite of what Paul says so clearly in his letter to the Romans. We are not to be arrogant toward the Jews, much less persecute them. Instead, we are to humbly acknowledge our indebtedness to them (Rom. 11:13-24). As Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews” (Jn. 4:22). Paul’s concern for them caused him great sorrow and unceasing anguish; so much so that he said he could wish himself accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers according to the flesh (Rom. 9:2-3). Strong language indeed! And shall we Gentile Christians be indifferent, or worse, hostile toward them?

How can Gentile Christians not feel a great affinity for the Jews? Isn’t our Lord Jesus Christ himself a Jew? Didn’t it please God to give us the books of the Bible (save two) through the hands of the Jews?

Of all people, Christians should love and respect the descendants of Abraham. Paul said that it should be our aim to live in such a way as to make Israel jealous so that they would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (Rom. 11:12). Not likely to happen, though, when his representatives commit their Talmud to the flames, their bodies to the ghetto, and their souls to humiliation.

May God hasten the day when ungodliness will be banished from Jacob and "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26-27). Then, truly, blessings will abound for Jew and Gentile alike (Rom. 11:11-15).

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